I’ve been promising the kids that they could help me with the Christmas cake, which I always make at the end of September / start of October to allow plenty of time for feeding with brandy. Then I realised that I’d probably made a bit of a mistake, given our children’s penchant for all cake ingredients – including dry flour – yuck, yuck, yuck. So I decided on a compromise and I mixed the cake whilst J and the kids were out but left the fruit for the kids to add in.
I follow the recipe for the Be-Ro Christmas cake and it’s the recipe I’ve used since I started making my own Christmas cake (I think mam was put out that I didn’t want her to make me one, and proud of me making my own, in equal parts). The sole reason I make this cake is that it’s the cake my mam makes, and has made since I was little, rather than it being most amazing Christmas cake you’ll ever eat (although it is nice!), but that’s how these things generally go isn’t it?
This year I did deviate slightly from the recipe, and soaked the dried fruit in a few tablespoons of brandy for a couple of days just to plump them up, as well as reducing the likelihood of a dry cake if (when) I forget the weekly feeding.
So the ingredients are:
350g plain flour
1tsp mixed spice
100g ground almonds
4 medium eggs (I actually used 3 large eggs from our hens)
75ml brandy (or just use 150ml milk instead of 75/75 split)
225g caster sugar
100g glace cherries
100g cut mixed peel
I started by preparing the tin, I always make a square Christmas cake, I’m not really sure why but it’s become a bit of a tradition now and so that’s what I do. Tin greased and lined, I sieved together the flour, mixed spice and ground almonds. I put the brandy and milk into a jug and then beat the eggs into this.
Once the easy bits are done the KitchenAid gets to work creaming the sugar and butter together – I used to totally hate this job and never ever made it anywhere near as light and creamy as the KitchenAid can (mainly due to impatience and sore hands) so, I’m glad for mechanical assistant.
Once the butter and sugar was all lovely and light and fluffy I spooned in 3-4 tablespoons of flour, gave it a quick whizz, added in some egg / milk / brandy mixture – gave it a quick whizz, added in the flour and so on and so forth until it was all mixed together.
At this point I had to stop and wait for everyone to get home so the kids could put the fruit in. It took all of my, limited, self-control to not scoff the raw mixture as it tastes lovely, and always zooms me straight back to making Christmas cake with my mam when I was little (what a terrible hypocrite I am!!). I ate some though. Of course.
Finally the kids come tearing in, they both actually volunteered to wash their hands, so excited were they by the prospect of helping.
They were given a spatula each and a firm warning not to lick them before the job was done. I knew this was a bit hopeful but thought it was worth a try. They did manage to get some fruit out of the bowl into the mixer though before I gave up.
“Mummy can do the rest darlings, why don’t you have this bit of mixture”.
Resulting in two happy little ones, and one mummy happy to regain control of the cake. The last fruit was chucked in and all got poured into the tin (the kids returned to help with this bit despite my pleas).
It goes into the oven at 150c / Gas Mark 3, on a base of brown paper, with brown paper round the sides of the tin for 3½ – 4 hours. Check after 2 hours and pop some foil on if it’s starting to brown too quickly – I did this at about 2½ hours, and took it out after about 3 ¼ hours. Mine always seems to cook a bit quicker than the book says it will.
The cake will be marzipaned and iced in the last week before Christmas – until then it gets wrapped up, fed with brandy once a week (when I remember) and kept well out of the way of the kids who don’t really understand why we’ve not already eaten it.
Whilst hiding in the kitchen I also took the opportunity to check on the sloe gin we started after our Bounty Hunting, it’s infusing nicely and starting to take on a lovely red colour – we’ve been shaking the jar every couple of days but I think now we can just do this once a week or so, as all the sugars have dissolved.
The recipe is from CJJ Berry’s First Steps in Winemaking and is really, really easy to do if you have any good sloe spots near you. All you need is:
1litre of gin (we use cheap stuff as the sugar and sloes change the taste so much)
Enough sloes to half fill a 1kilo preserving jar – I’d guess about 250g
125g caster sugar
1kilo preserving jar – we use a large kilner type jar – sterilised
Rinse and prick the sloes – some people say this should be done with a silver fork, some say with a thorn from the bush – which is what we tend to do, I don’t know what is supposed to happen if you don’t do it either of these ways. And whatever it is can’t be fatal as I know lots of people who just freeze them as they pop a bit on defrosting.
Put sloes into the jar, add the sugar and pour in the gin. Close lid. Give it a shake. Done.
Keep shaking the jar every day to every two days until the sugar has dissolved, then shake once a week or so – just to build up the sense of anticipation if nothing else. Leave the sloes in the jar for two months before pouring the gin through a clean muslin or linen into whichever bottle / bottles you want to keep it in – though I doubt it will be kept for long. And then, sit back, and enjoy.
Via Daily Post: Promises