I can't believe I've neglected posting here for so long! I've still been baking and cooking as much as ever, but just not blogging about it.
I was really pleased with the Christmas Cake I made, so it seems the perfect prompt to report back here about it.
It occurred to me this year that I've never made Christmas cake before. My mum is a great cook and baker, and has traditionally made us all a Christmas cake for as long as I can remember. Now we live in NZ, this is a slightly impractical arrangement, so if I wanted a cake I was going to have to make it myself.
I had a good look for a nice sounding recipe. There is nothing worse than an over dry Christmas cake, and they're hardly cheap to make afterall. I found this yummy recipe in Mindfood. It initially got my attention as there is (unusually perhaps) chocolate in the recipe.
Makes 22cm round cake
250g prunes, roughly chopped
200g dates, roughly chopped
1 cup sherry (Jerez-Xérès Medium Dry Amontillado)- I used Brandy
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup plum jam
1 large orange, finely grated rind
and ½ cup juice
2 cups plain flour, sifted
½ cup self-raising flour, sifted
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
fondant, to decorate (optional)
1 Put raisins, prunes, dates, sultanas, currants and sherry in a large bowl. Stir until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
2 Preheat oven to 160C. Line the base and sides of a deep 22cm round cake pan with a double layer of baking paper. Using an electric beater, beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add to fruit mixture and stir with a large metal spoon until well combined. Add chocolate, jam, orange rind and juice. Stir in sifted flours and spices until well combined and mixture is smooth.
3 Spoon cake mixture evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with cold water and smooth the surface with a wet hand. Tap pan gently on the bench top to settle the mixture.
4 Wrap two layers of brown paper around pan and secure with string. Bake for 2½ to 3 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. (If cake is becoming too dark while cooking, loosely cover with a sheet of foil.)
I made the cake a month before Christmas. When it was completely cold, I wrapped it in foil and stored in an airtight container. A fortnight later, I unwrapped the cake and pierced holes all over, and drizzled a minature of Grand Marnier over the top. The cake was then wrapped again, and stored until the weekend before Christmas.
I covered it in almond flavour fondant 4 days before Christmas, and then iced it with royal icing (2 whisked egg whites and 4 cups icing sugar, and a squirt of lime juice, all whisked in the mixer). My daughter added the silver balls for the final touch!
It was such a moist cake and a real winner. I'll certainly repeat this recipe next year - though I might use Grand Marnier to soak the fruit instead.