When I saw this traditional English Christmas cake in the Sep/Oct Jamie Magazine issue, I knew immediately that I would have definitely baked it for Christmas (yeah, I know, I love Christmas and I start thinking about it as soon as I put away my summer T-shirts and light dresses, I can’t help it).
As you already know how much I love the British side of life, you will easily understand how I desperately fell for this delicious fruit cake: rich, sumptuous, full of dried fruit and, above all, very English! It’s traditional to make this a few weeks before Christmas, so that you can feed it by pouring over booze of your choice, to further enrich the flavor of this extraordinary fruit cake.
The brandy aroma, combined with dried fruit and nuts, reminds me of season greetings, snowy Christmas carols, twinkling lights, rustling paper and satin ribbons… I can’t wait to finally bite into a thick slice of fruity Christmas cake, as until now I could only nibble something, while gradually adding some brandy to my creature!
Traditional Christmas Cake – from Jamie Magazine Sep/Oct 10
- 600 g raisins
- 200 g currants
- 100 g dried sour or glacé cherries
- 250 g mixed dried fruits try prunes, apricot, apples, pears finely chopped
- 400 ml booze plus extra to 'feed' the cake (brandy, sherry, Tia Maria, rum... all work well)
- 300 g butter at room temperature
- 200 g dark brown sugar
- 1 lemon
- 4 eggs at room temperature
- 2 tbsp treacle I used golden syrup
- 300 g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- a pinch of ground cloves
- 150 g ground almonds
- 150 g walnuts chopped
Place the dried fruit in a saucepan with the booze and bring to a simmer. Pour into a bowl, cool, cover and leave to soften.
Preheat the oven to 150C/gas 2 and line the base and sides of a 23cm round tin or a 20cm square tin with a double layer of greaseproof paper. You’ll need the side lining to be a good 8cm higher than the tin.
If you’d like your cake to be particularly moist, blitz half the soaked fruit in a food processor to make a paste, and stir back into the rest of the fruit. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Grate in the zest of your lemon and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Mix in the treacle. Sift the flour and combine with the spices and ground almonds. Mix into the butter mixture, alternating with the soaked fruit. Finally, fold in the walnuts. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin and bake in the oven for about 3 hours. Check after 2½ hours and then every 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush with a little more booze. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then remove, placing it directly onto a large sheet of tin foil. Wrap it up twice to retain the heat for as long as possible. After a few hours, remove the foil and wrap the cake up again in a double sheet of greaseproof paper and a double sheet of tin foil, making sure you can access the cake from the top. Store in an airtight container for 2–12 weeks. During this time, feed the cake the alcohol of your choice by gently pouring it over the top and rewrapping.
I decided to frost this traditional cake with a soft topping made by whipping together mascarpone cheese and cream with 2 tbsps of icing sugar. Spread evenly the frosting over the cake and decorate with some glacé cherries or Christmas decorations.
Tasting test. It isn’t a traditional Italian cake and you won’t find it within our family Christmas recipes… Well, until this year, I dare say. I’m sure that next year this will become an unmissable Christmas sweet treat, a new tradition to built year after year, sweet fruity crumble after sweet fruity crumble. It is a rich, full-bodied, fruity and flavorful cake, in which all the ingredients are perfectly balanced. It slightly resembles our typical panforte (a kind of gingerbread), but is less sweet, I do prefer the English version.