JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Christmas cake ... help!!!

There's not a great deal of enthusiasm in this house for Christmas cake, the traditional dark brown sort ... I make it every year, in quantity too, because I make one for my neighbour, another for my father, plus ... well, you know how it can be. But last year, I gave my neighbour the recipe, and said that from now on she'd probably have to make it herself, because I didn't want to be tied to making it every year, since no-one in the house wants Christmas cake (I made four last year, none of them for us).

My plan this year is to make a golden cake, in the hope that it will have more appeal for my family. And to make it even more tempting, I want it to have much much more fruit than is normal, so that it's really fruit glued together with a smidgeon of cake. This will make it heart-friendly, and generally more healthful, since dried fruit counts towards your five-a-day.

And I was wondering, does anyone have any experience of tampering with Christmas cake recipes?
I'm usually not afraid to mess with recipes, but baking - well, it requires precision.

My plan is to double the fruit for the recipe I'm using. I'd really like to triple it, but I think I'm chicken. I'm going to get round the cake tin / quantity problem by using the leftover mixture to make Christmas cup cakes (an idea shamelessly pinched from Nigella's Feast).

All suggestions will be seriously considered ... and, if useful, I'll send you one of the cupcakes, decorated as well as I can manage. As you see, I've started soaking the fruit - this year I'm using my homemade vanilla essence, and it smells absolutely wonderful. Most recipes tell you to soak the fruit for anything from one to three days. Let me tell you, you can leave it soaking for a week or more without any problem at all!


Susan said...

Oh, I wish I could help, but my mom never made them. No one in my family did. :( Good luck!

Riana Lagarde said...

I dont know either, but I am making vanilla essence too! It's heavenly. I think I will give bottles of that this year. I'll check back to see how it goes. best of luck!

Magic Cochin said...

I love Christmas Cake! So does Cliff - so if there's one in the house it will be devoured. Great for taking on long winter walks or enjoying when we get back, or in the evening with a glass of Ginger Wine (Stones Vintage GW - yum).
I remember fruit cakes cooked by various aged relatives which were just jam packed with fruit with hardly any discernable cakey stuff between. So I'd go for it and experiment. Make smallish cakes with different ratios of fruit to cake mix and see which work best. (This isn't a budget experiment, is it?)

Good luck with the quest!

Eleanor said...

I doubled the fruit in a Mary Berry simnel cake, which resulted in a passable 'fruit glued together with cake' effect, though from the centre marzipan layer downwards there were patches of sogginess, particularly after a couple of days. I imagine the high moisure content could be counteracted by reducing the liquids elsewhere in the recipe, I wonder whether it would also hold together better by including a proportion of a more robust/absorbent flour? Thinking about holding together 'damp' and low-fat cake recipes also brings ground almonds and egg whites to mind. Good luck!

Anna said...

I have no idea about increasing the fruit (sorry) - I wrote recently about making the perfect fruit cake, comparing famous classic recipes, but they all used a similar template - equal amounts of flour, butter and sugar, with 2lb of fruit to an 8" tin.

But I'm experimenting this year, too -- it's the candied peel and cherries that I'm not keen on, so I am trying Nigella's chocolate fruit cake this year. It has raisins, figs, orange peel, vanilla and Tia Maria (plus chocolate) in it... and I am hoping that my family of chocoholics will love it, but I'll let you know! I really ought to make it soon, oughtn't i.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Joanna - I've made a chocolate Christmas cake for years, then a couple of years ago I used all red and orange and yellow fruits and white chocolate instead. It was great - bright and jewelly. I call it my Summer Solstice cake ('cos we have hot Christmases here)

Summer Solstice Cake
Pre-soak 665 gm dried fruit – use the red and yellow varieties (as long as you can(cherries, pineapple, peel, mango, apricot, peach etc etc) in ½ cup Golden Syrup and ¾ cup liqueur or brandy.
250 gm butter
1 ½ cup caster sugar
6 eggs
2 cup plain flour
1 cup SR flour
100g m pine-nuts
Juice ½ lemon
125 gm white choc, grated.

Another 2/3 cup peach liqueur (or any fruity liqueur, or brandy, or ….)

Cream butter and sugar until just conbined.
Add eggs one at a time, beating until just combined.
Stir in fruit, pine-nuts, liqueur, juice, chocolate, then sifted flours in 2 batches.

Decorate top with almonds.
Lined tin
120 deg 2 ½ hours.
Leftovers in 4 large muffin tins

P.S you can always pack more fruit into fruit cakes - the mixture does not need to be "light" and rise like a sponge.

Steph in Roker (found you via beansprouts) said...

Is Genoa cake lighter than a dark fruit cake? I had stollen for the first time last year (a shop bought one). The word stollen suggested stodge to me, but it was as light as air but very satisfying. Thanks for remindingmeabout that, I'm off to google a stollen recipe

Cottage Smallholder said...

Hi Joanna,

I developed my own recipe a couple of years ago for the same reasons as you.

The recipe is here

bpm said...

I think messing with the ratios shouldn't be too much of a risk (hey, it's Christmas, the traditional season for disasters!). With a fruit cake it isn't so much chemistry (compare at the other extreme to baking bread) just the sticking of stuff together, so long as the consistency remains OK it should eat OK. But I'm a bloke so what would I know..? (Nice blog BTW). Ben

Anna said...

PS JOanna, the December issue of Country Living has a fat-free (and flour-free) Christmas pudding recipe in it - saw it and thought of you! Let me know if you would like me to type it out.

Figs Olives Wine said...

What a fabulous post for me to come back to! I adore Christmas cake, and the idea of all that homemade vanilla is heaven - I don't think you can go wrong!

sexy shreya said...

I have a small query.... I am a beginner in cake making; this being my first year.
If I want to increase the fruit in my recipe, will the amount of flour and sugar remain the same?

Angela said...

What about pureeing some of the soaked boozy fruit and using that to replace some of the butter?

beth said...

i have made a christmas cake at guides we had to:

mix in the brown sugar with the butter
start to mix in the egg with the sherry in
if it cudles too much add some flour wiith a 2.5 ml spoonful of mixed spice.
then you add in all the fruit and cherry etc... and then you mix it all in.

Joan said...

This month's The Lady magazine has a recipe which is much lower in fat than a normal cake recipe, with 1.75 oz butter to 9 oz flour (the remainder being 7 oz sugar, about 9 oz assorted currants, sultanas and chopped apricots, with 6 oz of cider and some golden syrup.Plus Christmassy spices and ginger!) This gives a moist cake best cut into squares, sprinled with icing sugar. Part of the sugar can be replaced with Splenda or similar for an even healthier treat!

Joanna said...

This sounds worth looking at, Joan, thanks for the tip. No egg? I think I'd stick to sugar rather than Splenda, all those chemicals make me nervous. I can't remember the last time I picked up a copy of The Lady!