Making a Christmas cake has always seemed like too much hard work for me; the planning, months of feeding the fruit with alcohol, the baking, making the almond paste and lastly spending an eternity icing the darned thing, seems like a whole load of festive faff that to date I’ve never involved myself in. Besides I don’t even like Christmas cake as I always feel like there is too much ‘stuff’ in it!
But as a family of foodies, Christmas is a time for indulgence and as we are hosting Christmas this year, and the rest of my family feel more kindly towards Christmas cake than I do, I thought I would put my bias aside and give it a whirl!
Having done my research it would seem that the majority of recipes involve feeding the cake with alcohol for months on end but I did stumble across this lovely recipe from Rachel Allen who claims that her delicious cake can be made on Christmas Eve and still taste as good as the others, if not better! Apparently as long as the fruit’s soaked for at least two hours, that’s more than enough, but if you do have time, you can leave it to get sozzled for a couple of days. She also says that this cake is easier than making a Victoria Sponge – this sounds like my kind of festive bake!
However…having made the cake today, it would appear that I fail miserably on the domestic goddess front, mainly because I can’t read my own recipes and got the size of the cake tin completely wrong (surely a lot of people get confused with inches and cms right?!). My cake tin was bigger than it should have been, yet for some reason in my ‘small-child-induced-sleep-deprived-fog’ I thought it was smaller, so halved the recipe (I told you i’m no Nigella!) resulting in a cake that was A LOT thinner than it should have been!
Needless to say I thought I had no option but to rebake the cake when my lovely husband stepped in to try and salvage the situation by suggesting a ‘layered cake’! So that’s what I did. After the cake had cooled I cut it in half, and stuck it together with a bit of marmalade with the thought that once its covered in marzipan and icing, no-one will be any the wiser! Now, I’m not suggesting you do this for one minute, but I am rather pleased with the end result!
For the cake:
- 150g sultanas
- 150g raisins
- 110g chopped dried cranberries
- 110g chopped candied peel
- 110g chopped dates
- 110g chopped dried apricots
- 50g chopped crystallized ginger
- 150ml brandy or whiskey
- 275g butter, softened
- 275g soft light brown sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1 orange rind grated finely
- 50g ground almonds
- 275g flour
- 2tsp mixed spice
For the almond paste: (or you can just use shop-bought marzipan for ease – I did!)
- 450g ground almonds
- 450g caster sugar
- 1 large or 2 small eggs
- 2tbsp brandy or whiskey
- 2 drops of almond essence
- 1 cup icing sugar, for dusting
To brush on the cake:
- A few spoonfuls of marmalade or apricot jam (heated to form a liquid that can be brushed)
For royal icing:
- 4 egg whites
- 675g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp 1/3 glycerine
For fondant icing: (or you can just use shop-bought fondant icing for ease like I did!!)
- 1.5 egg whites, whisked
- 100g liquid glucose
- 0.5tsp vanilla extract
- 600g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
- Firstly prepare the fruit for the cake. Place the dried fruit, candied peel and crystallised ginger in a bowl, pour on the alcohol and allow to soak for at least two hours.
- Preheat the oven to 150C/135 fan/300F/gas mark 2.
- Line the base of a 23cm (9 inch) non-stick cake tin and butter the sides. You can also put parchment paper around the outside of the tin to stop the cake drying out in the oven.
- In a mixing bowl, cream the butter well. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time and beating well between each addition.
- Stir in the orange zest and almonds then sift in the flour and mixed spices and fold in gently. Fold in the soaked dried fruit together with any alcohol left in the bowl.
- Transfer the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 150mins – 195 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Pour another tablespoon or two of the alcohol over the cake, as soon as it out of the oven. Cover the cake, still in the tin, with foil and allow to cool. Once the cake has cooled, remove from the tin and wrap in foil until you are ready to cover it with almond paste / marzipan. (The cake will keep like this for a couple of months!)
- To make the almond paste: (instead of using shop-bought marzipan…)
- Mix the ground almonds and sugar together in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg(s), add the brandy or whiskey and the almond essence, then add to the dry ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all of the egg mixture).
- Sprinkle the worktop with icing sugar, turn the almond paste out of the bowl and gently knead until smooth.
- Remove all foil and greaseproof paper from the cake. Take about half the almond paste and place it on a worktop, dusted with icing sugar. Roll out until it’s slightly bigger than the cake itself and about 1cm thick.
- Brush the top of the cake with the jam and turn it upside down onto the almond paste. Cut around the edge of the cake, then carefully turn the cake the right side up with the lid of almond paste on top. (Alternatively you could cut the almond paste out using the cake tin as a template, and place it on top of the cake).
- Next measure the circumference of the cake with a piece of string. Roll out one long strip of almond paste (or two shorter strips joined together) the same length of the string and trim both short edges to the same height of the cake. Brush the cake and the almond paste lightly with the jam and press the strip(s) against the sides of the cake, but without overlapping or there will be a bulge. Trim away any overlapping pieces of almond paste, then roll a straight sided glass around the sides to ensure there are no gaps between the cake and the paste.
- For royal icing: Place the egg whites and icing sugar in a large bowl and using either a hand held electric beater or a food mixer, whisk for several minutes or until the icing stands up in stiff peaks, then whisk in the glycerine just for a second or two to combine.
- Use a palette knife to spread the icing all over the cake, covering the almond paste, then use the flat of the palette knife to gently lift up the icing in small peaks all over for a `snow scene’ effect.
- For fondant icing: In a bowl, mix together the egg white, glucose and vanilla extract. Place the icing sugar in a separate bowl and gradually add the egg white mixture, beating continuously until all the ingredients come together.
- Place the icing on a spotlessly clean worktop that has been generously dusted with icing sugar and knead it for a minute or two until it is completely smooth on the surface.
- Dust your worktop again with icing sugar and roll out the icing into a round about 30cm (12in) in diameter. Make sure that the worktop doesn’t get sticky by regularly lifting up the icing with a palette knife or metal fish slice and dusting the work surface beneath it with icing sugar to stop the icing sticking to it.
- Brush the almond paste with boiling hot water so that the fondant icing will stick to it, then carefully lift the round of icing and place over the cake. Press and smooth the icing all over the cake with your hands. Use a straight sided tumbler to roll all over the cake, then, with a sharp knife, trim away any excess from the ‘skirt’. Keep rolling over the cake with the tumbler for a very smooth and neat finish. (If making a square cake, press something flat like a hardback book against each side to neaten and flatten the sides).
And there you have it – a super easy Christmas cake recipe (if you can read the recipe correctly that is!) for all the family to enjoy.
But wait, there’s more…
I’ve teamed up with the lovely people at OXO to host a fantastic bumper giveaway! You may have noticed that I used a lot of OXO utensils and baking products whilst baking this cake and they are offering one lucky winner all the products that I used so you can make your very own Christmas cake in time for Christmas day.
The prize includes all of these lovely items:
For your chance to win, comment on this blog post, telling me what present you are hoping to find under the Christmas tree this year and then enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Full Ts&Cs are below.
- Entry is open to UK residents aged 18 and over, excluding anyone professionally associated with Hello Baby Blog or OXO.
- The prize is non-transferable and there is no cash alternative.
- The prize draw starts at 12.00am GMT on 9th December 2014 and closes at 12.00am GMT on 18th December 2014.
- Entry is free and must be made by commenting on this blog post and filling in the Rafflecopter widget. Entrants can gain bonus entries by visiting Hello Baby on facebook, @hellobabyblog on Twitter, tweeting about the giveaway, visiting OXO UK on facebook, @oxo_uk on Twitter and then completing the Rafflecopter widget featured in this post.
- The name of the winner will be published on this website within 14 days of the competition closing.
- Hello Baby Blog’s decision on all matters is final and binding on all entrants. No correspondence will be entered into.
- By taking part in this competition you agree to be bound by the competition terms and conditions.
- Hello Baby Blog reserves the right to disqualify any entrant and / or winner in its discretion and without any notice in accordance with these terms and conditions.
- One the winner has been selected at random using Rafflecopter, I will inform OXO of the winner’s name and address, they will then send on the prize. I’m sure this won’t happen but I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post or arriving late