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

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Extra-fruity golden Christmas cake

It's rather a long time since I put the dried fruit into a plastic box with vanilla vodka and citrus zest. All the recipes say you should soak it for a short time, ranging from about two hours to perhaps a couple of days. I nearly always end up coming back to my fruit after a week or two has elapsed. No problem .... just as well, because this year's cake has twice as much dried fruit in it as usual, to make it more heart-healthy. The aim was to have a slice of fruit glued together with a little cake. And that's what I've got. (Photograph to follow - it's dark, but I've GOT to get this post out now or it will never happen.)

Luckily, as this year's cake is highly experimental, I'd written down notes about what I'd done two weeks ago, and what needed doing next. Otherwise, well - I'd have had to spend another few hours working it all out again.

The biggest problem with reworking a fruit cake recipe is that you don't know exactly how much mixture you'll end up with, or what size tin you'll need. So I decided from the outset that I would make one biggish cake and as many "cupcakes" and teeny cakes as possible. The mix that follows made one 6" cake, and a baker's dozen of variously-shaped little ones.

Extra-fruity golden Christmas cake

When you've got a little time, soak:

1 kilo mixed fruit
18 tablespoons liquor - I used vanilla vodka because that's what I had, but normally I use cheap brandy
zest of two oranges, finely grated

Normally, I put this into a mixing bowl, cover it with a teatowel, and leave it somewhere out of the way, which might or might not be a cool place. This has always worked fine. This year, because there was so much more fruit, none of my bowls was big enough, so I put it into a big plastic box with a lid which I use for picnics. I left it littering the kitchen, which is often very hot. No problem. And the smell was knock-out when I opened the box. Oh and one more thing - you don't need to believe cookery writers who tell you to keep stirring the mixture, there's absolutely no need to do this until you are ready to use it.

When you're ready to bake, assemble these ingredients:

200g Flora
225g caster sugar (less would be good, as there's so much sweet fruit)
4 eggs
100g ground almonds
200g plain flour

Beat the margarine and sugar until the mixture turns pale. Add the eggs one by one so that they don't curdle the mix (but, if they do, start adding the flour). Add the flour and almonds, and stir everything well. Add a teaspoon or two of mixed spice if you'd like. I didn't, because I wanted this cake to taste of the fruit itself (lots of sultanas, dried cherries and glace cherries).

Mix in the fruit, and turn into a prepared cake tin. You can fill this right to the top, because it won't rise much.

Smaller cakes were baked in various ways: I used heart-shaped tin moulds, stainless steel cooking rings (both very successful), and cupcake cases which were less successful because this mixture is lumpy with fruit (it's got twice as much as most "normal" recipes) ... but cupcake cases would be very good with a traditional cake mix.

I baked these at 170C. Start testing the smaller cakes after 30 minutes - if they're near the top of the oven, that's all they'll take. The cupcakes only took longer because they were right at the bottom of my oven in a cold spot - once they'd moved up a rack, they finished cooking in moments. The big cake took about two hours.

Next I'm going to make some marzipan, and then I've got to decide how to decorate. I've never had much success with icing a Christmas cake, so I'd appreciate all the help I can get from experienced cake decorators.

Last, but not least, I'd like to say a huge thank you to so many people who took the trouble to cheer me on and give me advice and help over this .... there are some really good ideas there - pureeing some of the fruit to replace a little of the Flora (I put less marge more almonds for the same sort of result, but only because I was too idle to puree the fruit ... also, since the party a couple of weeks ago, I can't find key parts of my Kenwood mixer) ... I'm going to make the summer solstice cake in a while, I'm toying with the idea of a chocolate fruit cake ... thank you BMP for that very sensible blokey suggestion of just getting on with it ... Steph, I hope you made your stollen ... and, yes, Shreya, you just double the fruit and leave everything else the same - it really works, amazing but true!


SueCooksWild said...

Oh, you and Tanna both are tempting me with your fruitcake recipes!!! And marzipan - homemade! Can't wait to see how this turns out. I do love the holiday cooking time, don't you? I made some Mandel Bread the other day which is one of my favorites.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

But now where is the photo. All the golden raisins in you original post must have this being a golden cake. How cakey did it turn out?