I don't always make a Christmas cake - years of taking Christmas orders for others in my cooking days many moons ago have rather dulled my enjoyment of same, but this year, in the interest of my new found baking enthusiasm I decided to have a go.
I like Christmas cake but have never really fallen in love with the dark fruited ones that are the norm so when I discoverd a Light Christmas cake recipe by the Blessed Delia I decided to try it and have made it many times since as I enjoyed it so much. One of the reasons I enjoy making it is that the fruits, when cut up and left to soak overnight in brandy in a clear bowl, look like jewels and are such lovely colours.
The fruit needed is 4oz glace pineapple; 4oz glace apricots; 6oz glace cherries, rinsed and dried (mixed colour pack); 4oz candied peel; 2oz angelica; 8oz sultanas (I bought the golden variety); 2ozs crystallised ginger. All these fruits need to be chopped up into pieces the size of the sultanas and then, as I said, left to soak overnight. Also add 4oz finely chopped walnuts.
Note: tracking down these fruits can be difficult. Sainsbury had none of them save cherries, Waitrose not much better and I ended up in a small specialised grocer in Colchester, Guntons, which had a good selection and bought them all from there. You may need to check out a similar shop in your locale.
Next day, cream up 8oz unsalted butter with 8oz caster sugar till light and fluffy. Then whisk four medium sized eggs and gradually beat in. When all the beaten egg has been added lightly fold in 2oz ground almonds, the grated rinds of an orange and a lemon and their juice. At this stage Delia says bung in the brandy but I have already used it to soak the fruit which makes for a better cake in my humble. Then fold in 8oz plain flour sifted, add all the fruit and give a good stir until everything is incorporated.
This cooks in an 8" round tin, well greased and lined with greaseproof paper and placed in the middle of a preheated oven Gas Mark 3/325F/170C and cooked for an hour. After an hour cover the cake with a double layer of greaseproof paper so the top does not get too brown and leave to cook for another 2-2¼ hours but do check after 2 hours as sometimes, depending on how hot your oven is, it can be ready then.
When ready it will shrink away from the side of the tin and be springy in the middle when pressed lightly with a little finger. Leave in tin until cold then peel of papers and re-wrap in fresh greaseproof paper before storing in a tin until ready to be iced. It can also be drip fed with extra brandy every now and then should you so wish....
I shall be posting on my attempt this year to make, not buy, Royal Icing, and decorate the cake. This could be potentially disastrous as I have not done this for yonks either but we shall see.
At the moment the kitchen is full of that wonderful warm, fruity fragrant smell you get when baking a Christmas Cake and it always makes me feel happy and cosy.