Baking Christmas

Easy Christmas Cake Recipe: Why it’s Important to Make Your Christmas Cake Early



Christmas trends come and go, but Christmas cakes are a staple on everyone’s dinner table during the festive season. Traditionally, Christmas cakes are rich and spicy, bursting with boozy fruit. But there are so many ways you can make this popular fruit cake. Which is great because there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

So why make Christmas cake early? The important thing to remember is the sooner you make your Christmas cake, the longer it has to mature. If you bake it a few days before the big day it’s more likely to crumble. But if you leave it for a few weeks, or even months, it firms up and has a neat slice. Go heavy with the cherries and apricots if you want a lighter cake. Or use more figs and prunes if you fancy a rich, darker cake.

Ingredients
4 Eggs 40g Blanched Almonds, Chopped
130g Plain Flour 100g Mixed Peel
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder Grated Zest of 1 Orange
125g Butter, Softened 245g Sultanas
125g Dark Muscovado Sugar 245g Currants
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon 120g Cherries, Halved
100g Dried Figs, Chopped 125ml Sherry, Plus Extra to Feed
Equipment from
Airtight Container Wooden Spoon
Cake Tin Pastry Brush
Sieve Microplane
Baking Paper Wire Cooling Tray
Skewer Kitchen Foil

Method

  1. Wash all your dried fruit in warm water and thoroughly dry them on some kitchen paper. 
  2. Put the dried fruit and peel in a container and pour in the sherry. Give it a good mix to make sure all the fruit is covered. Secure the lid and leave to soak for three days, stirring daily.
    TIP: Try not to cut the soaking time as the leftover alcohol will alter the texture of your cake.
  3. Preheat your oven to 140°C then grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Use two layers of baking parchment and follow the tip below to stop your cake from cooking too quickly.
    TIP: Get some newspaper and use some string to secure it to the outside of your baking tin. Make sure the newspaper sits a couple inches higher than the top of your baking tin. This should help stop the edges of your cake from overcooking.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is fluffy and the colour is lighter. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each one so the mixture doesn't curdle.
    TIP: Your mixture is likely to curdle if you add all your eggs at once. But it’s not the end of the world if your mixture does split. Don’t be tempted to add extra flour to mask over it. It should even itself out in the oven anyway. 
  5. Mix together the sifted flour, baking powder and spice and then fold this into the butter and sugar mixture.
  6. Slowly stir in the soaked fruits, and any leftover sherry, the orange zest and blanched almonds and stir to combine.
  7. Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth the surface. Press the mixture firmly with a spoon so there are no air pockets. Make a small well in the middle to help your cake rise perfectly.
  8. Bake in the centre of your pre-heated oven for about 4 hours or until the cake is firm to the touch. The cake needs to bake slowly to stop it from burning.
    TIP: It’s quite easy to burn Christmas cakes. If you see the top of your cake catching too early, cut out some baking paper and rest it lightly on the top of your cake.
  9. Check your cake's cooked through by spearing the middle with a clean skewer. If the skewer comes out clean your cake’s done. 
  10. Leave to cool in the tin then use the skewer to poke a few holes almost all the way through the cake, then brush the top with some sherry.
  11. Store the cooled Christmas cake by wrapping it tightly in a double layer of baking paper followed by a double layer of foil. Put it in an airtight container and find a cool place away from direct sunlight.
    TIP: Don’t wrap the cake directly in foil because the fruit will react with the aluminium.

How to Feed your Christmas Cake

Who’d have thought a cake needs feeding? Because you can make your Christmas cakes so far in advance, it needs feeding to stop the sponge from drying out.

Feeding involves brushing the top of your cake with alcohol. And it’s up to you to decide how often you feed the cake. We recommend brushing the surface of your cake with a couple of tablespoons of sherry every other week.

Decorating your Christmas Cake

You can decorate and ice your Christmas cake any way you want. Some go for a light dusting of icing sugar. Some go all out with a layer of marzipan and a layer of royal icing. Almond paste is popular too. It provides a cushion between the cake and icing. But make sure you leave this layer to dry for up to a week before the final layer of icing. 


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