The Crowther Christmas Cake!

This week I baked our Christmas cake. It was later than usual because I have been so busy with other festivities. October brought Keighley’s ‘Spooky Halloween’ themed cake club, and this meant much of my time was spent planning and experimenting with my chocolate fudge graveyard cake! As usual, the standard of the cakes brought to cake club was excellent, in fact they were scarily good!

As it has also been Bonfire night, I’ve also been making lots of treacle based treats at home, and delicious homemade hot caramel apple cider so I have been very busy in the kitchen lately!

When it came to making our Christmas cake, I wanted to create a recipe that could, if needed be made without alcohol, this meant I could make a separate cake for my Children to enjoy too. I decided to use hot, strong tea in the cake, and as part of the ‘feed’ hence the hot toddy reference! My first cake has been made laced with Brandy as below, although my second version will be made with orange juice instead of Brandy.

The fact that the mixed dried fruits are soaked in strong tea mixture the night before baking too, means an extra depth of flavour is added to the cake, it also adds extra moisture, making the cake delicious! Of course the best fruit cakes are matured for at least a month, and ‘fed’ each week with alcohol, but if you are short on time, this cake can be enjoyed straight away without problem.

Fruit cakes made solely from dried fruit will keep for several weeks, although fruit cakes that have been matured and fed with alcohol can be stored for a year or more.

Once the cake has been ‘fed’ sufficiently and it’s ready to be eaten, remove from the paper and airtight tin, and decorate using marzipan and icing. I’ll then be serving ours with lots of Wensleydale cheese. Perfect!

TOP TIPS!

* Make sure the batter is heavy enough for the dried fruit to be suspended in it, because if it is too thin, the fruit will sink. You can add flour if it is very thin, or drench some of the fruit in flour.

* The dried fruit will scorch and become bitter if the oven temperature is too high, so ensure the cake is cooked slowly, at a low temperature, in a double lined baking tin

* If cake is browning too fast, place a sheet of foil the top of the cake

* Cool the cake completely in baking tin and remove once cooled.

* Use fresh good quality ingredients and make sure spices are nice and fresh

*The last ‘feed’ should be at least one week before you cover the cake with marzipan

For the cake

225g butter
225g dark Muscovado sugar
225g plain flour
4 eggs, beaten
600g mixed dried fruits (sultanas, raisins or dates all work well)
100g mixed peel
100g chopped dried apricots
100g ground almonds
125g glacé cherries
2 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
150ml hot, strong black tea
4 tbsp good-quality orange marmalade
3 tbsp Brandy (optional)

To feed the cake

2 tsp caster sugar
20ml hot black tea
1 tbsp Brandy (orange juice can be used instead)

Method

The day before:

Mix the hot tea, Brandy and marmalade in a large bowl until the marmalade melts. Stir in all of the dried fruit, peel and cherries, then cover and leave to soak overnight.

The next day:

1. Grease and double-line with baking paper a 20cm round, deep cake tin.

2. Either by hand or with a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.

3.Fold the flour, ground almonds and spices into the mixture, followed by the lemon zest and soaked fruit. (You can also add the remaining liquid that has not been absorbed by the fruit)

4.Spoon into the prepared tin, and then bake for approximately 1½ hours. Then, turn the oven down to 140C/fan 120C/gas 1 and bake for another 1½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

5,Cool on a wire rack in the baking tin.

6.Dissolve the sugar in the tea, add the Brandy (or orange juice) This makes the ‘feed’. While the cake is still warm, use the skewer to pepper the cake with holes, poking it all the way down, then spoon the ‘feed’ over the surface of the cake. (These actions are repeated for each feed).

7. As you have made the cake ahead of time, feed it every week, but take care not to make the cake soggy. Can be kept for a month well-wrapped in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

8. This cake is still delicious if eaten after originally baked, and can be decorated with marzipan, and festive icing, if desired.

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