Sundays with Chef Peter…. An English Christmas Cake
Well daahlings, just over 2 weeks left till Christmas so still a bit of time to do your last minute baking and whip up your Christmas cake to go with your pudding and mince pies! Real traditional English Christmas fare and believe me dahlings I am in England at the moment, freezing my little or rather quite large butt off but does mean though I can woof down as many of these treats as I like to keep warm! Now there is a an excuse!
Most countries has its own type of Christmas cake and they are all delicious and unique, the Yule log from France, Panettone from Italy and the Stollen from Germany to mention but a few but as I am English, we’ll do mine this time.
As with all the Christmas recipes I have covered in the past couple of weeks, the Christmas cake is really best made well in advance and stored to mature for a couple of months. However, I think if you get baking in the next couple of days and lace your cake every other day with your favourite alcoholic tipple (mine is Cherry Brandy.....1 for the cake and 1 for the chef!) until the 21st December when you should marzipan and ice it, you should be ok for the 25th. That is of course that you could possibly manage a slice of Christmas cake on the big day after all that turkey, pudding and mince pies! The great thing though and what I love about all these Christmas goods is that they keep well so you can keep nibbling on them well into January or longer and each time get that Christmas tingle again!
When I was younger my mother would put it in our school lunch boxes every day till nearly Valentines! I never tired of it though saving that layer of soft marzipan and brittle icing till last!
You can also vary and replace the ingredients with your favourite things, some people prefer more cherries and candied peel and other a more nutty cake with whole walnuts or hazelnuts (whole nuts are not such a good idea if you are to store the cake for a long time as they may go rancid and when like this will spoil the taste of the whole cake.
So here is my recipe:
200gs Dark Brown Sugar
50gs Black Treacle
25gs Corn Flour
80gs Roasted Ground Almond
15gs Mixed Spice
925gs Mixed Fruit (or mixture of currants, raisins, sultanas and mixed peel)
2 Orange Juice & zest
2 Lemon Juice & zest
150gs Glace Cherries (halved)
As desired Brandy, whiskey, cherry brandy or liqueur of your choice.
450gs Marzipan for covering the top and sides
Apricot Jam for brushing the cake
For the royal icing
3 egg whites600g icing sugar sieved
- Heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Grease a 20cm/8inch round or an 18cm/7inch square cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
- Sieve the flour, corn flour, mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and salt into a bowl.
- Cream the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the sugar, treacle, until light and fluffy.
- Mix the eggs a little at a time into the mixture adding a tablespoon of flour mixture with the last amount.
- Fold in the remaining flour mixture until well mixed and then mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, glace cherries, lemon/orange zest and juice and almond powder.
- Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and make a slight hollow in the centre with the spoon.
- Bake in the oven for 3 hours and then test with a skewer or knife. When removed and clean the cake is ready, if not bake for up to another hour testing every 20 minutes until the skewer comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for a couple of hours.
- Turn out on to a wire rack and leave overnight.
- The next day punch some holes in the cake with a skewer and pour over the brandy or liqueur of your choice. Let the brandy soak into the cake.
- Store the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, holes side up.
- Spoon over a few tablespoons of brandy/liqueur every other day until you are ready to ice and decorate your cake.
- To decorate the cake, place the cake on a foil board or cake plate.
- Dust your hands and the work surface with a little icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft.
- Roll out half the marzipan to fit the top of the cake and roll out the rest in strips to fit around the sides of the cake.
- Warm the apricot jam and brush the cake all, then place the marzipan on top and around the sides of the cake.
- To make the icing, whisk the egg whites to a soft snow and then slowly add the icing sugar. Beat well for about 5 minutes until the icing reaches soft peaks. Some people like to add glycerine, lemon juice and a drop of blue colour but I don’t find this really necessary.
- Spread icing all over cake and either flat iced using a clean ruler or by forming soft peaks with a back of a spoon. Decorate with Christmas ornaments, ribbons of your choice.
- If you don’t like the royal icing, a great alternative is sugarpaste (roll over fondant) and this you do by damping the marzipan with water and rolling the sugarpaste dusting the table with a little corn flour till ¾ cm thick and large enough to cover the whole cake (8" round cake 3" deep needs 1kg sugar paste rolled out 14" diameter). Once covered, trim and decorate as desired.
Happy Baking daahlings, next week were going to have an alternative Christmas dessert suggested by my darling friend who would like something just a little lighter!
Till then, Happy Baking,