I had a few Christmassy posts that I tried to put up on the 20th, but my computer wouldn’t let me. So I have to upload them now – sorry and happy new year!
Delia Smith is the best-selling author in the UK – so naturally, I couldn’t help trying out her most famous recipe for Christmas Cake (See the advert here). Last year, she relaunched the recipe thousands have been making, into a £10 pack with most of the ingredients inside, ready to make. She also claims anyone can make it, no matter how skilled they are in cooking, which is true – after all, I made a successful one!
As the box returned again for a second year, I couldn’t help placing (sneaking) it in my Dad’s shopping trolley for only a bargain price of £2.50 (Boxing day sales!) saving me £20. You do buy the rest of the ingredients – making the whole thing a very pricey and lengthy recipe but it’s exactly what it says on the box; a good hearty Christmas pud.
Makes: One 20cm round cake
Prepared ingredients pack includes:
- 450g currants
- 175g sultanas
- 175g raisins
- 50g chopped glacé cherries
- 50g mixed chopped candied peel
- 100ml brandy (all above pre-mixed and pre-soaked in the pack)
- 225g plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
- ½ teaspoon ground mixed spice (the two spices are pre-mixed in the pack)
- 225g soft dark brown sugar
- 50g chopped almonds
- 1 dessertspoon black treacle (The treacle will be easier to squeeze out of the prepared packet if you pop it in a cup of warm water for a few minutes)
You will also need:
- 225g very soft butter
- 5 medium eggs
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- Grated zest of 1 orange
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Armagnac or brandy, to feed the cake
- 100g whole blanched almonds (only if you don’t intend to ice the cake)
- 250g marzipan
- 500g ready-to-roll icing
- 1 heaped tbsp apricot jam
- Silver balls
- Set of three festive cookie cutters
You’ll also need:
A 20cm round or an 18cm square tin, greased and lined with a double thickness of baking parchment, and a spot of oil. Tie a band of brown paper (or a double thickness of newspaper will do) round the outside of the tin for extra protection.
Note for baking:
If you are using a fan oven, it’s useful to secure the baking parchment cover with a few paperclips. Please refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the cooking time and oven temperature. (I will include timing for Agas below)
- Pre-heat the oven to 140C, gas mark 1.
- Now all you do is sift the flour, salt and spices into a very large roomy mixing bowl then add the sugar, eggs and the soft butter and either whisk or beat with a wooden spoon until everything is light, pale and fluffy. Now gradually fold in the pre-soaked fruit mixture, chopped nuts and treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.
- Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon and, if you don’t intend to decorate the cake with marzipan and icing, lightly drop the blanched almonds in circles over the surface.
- Finally, cover the top of the cake with a double layer of baking parchment with a 50p-size hole in the centre (this gives extra protection during the long slow cooking). Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched. Sometimes it can take longer than this, but in any case don’t look for 4 hours. If you are using an Aga, it is a bit experimental. I cooked my cake for 15-20 minutes in the top oven, like you would with any normal cake, and it turned out fine. It all depends on your aga.
- Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it’s cold, ‘feed’ it by making small holes in the top and bottom with a cocktail stick and spooning in a couple of tablespoons of Armagnac or brandy, then wrap it in double baking parchment secured with an elastic band and either wrap again in foil or store in an airtight tin. You can now ‘feed’ it at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it.
To decorate, place the cake on a cake board, then melt the jam with the Armagnac or brandy in a small saucepan, stirring until all the lumps have dissolved. Now, using a brush, coat the surface of the cake quite generously with the melted mixture. Take the marzipan and roll it out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and cut it to a 20cm round and place this over the top of the cake.
- Repeat this step with the icing, and place it over the marzipan. Using the cutters, cut out one side of the largest star with cold water and then place this side in the centre of the top of the cake. Then repeat with the medium and small stars. Decorate the edges of the cake and the stars with silver balls, using a little water mixed with a little icing sugar as a glue to keep the silver balls in place.
- Keep the cake in a tin and tie a ribbon around it on Christmas Day.