In my case, Christmas cake.
It’s that time of year again. My cake is gluten free by necessity, and because GF cakes tend to get stale a lot quicker, I don’t make it ages in advance, as my mother did, feeding the thing with more and more alcohol until it was well pickled. Mine still gets plenty (OK, masses) of alcohol, but it needs to be made a little closer to the event.
Here’s a line up of the usual suspects. The pan contains the dried fruit (sultanas, cherries, apricots, peaches, apples, cranberries, blueberries), rum, golden syrup, orange zest and a little water. The rest of the line-up is lots of lovely butter and free range eggs, cinnamon, allspice, bicarb, and gluten free flour. And this lot came from my pantry, I didn’t even have to go shopping (which tells you something about my pantry, namely, that I love to bake). This also explains why there are no dates in it (I didn’t have any). I’m probably risking accusations of heresy here, but I hate nuts in my Christmas cake, so there are none. And I’m doubling the normal quantity of glace cherries because I love them (eek, heaps of sugar and red food colouring, but there’s something about the texture, and cherries are my second favourite fruit).
I have a square cake pan for this. It’s heavy duty, which helps the thing bake more evenly. Formerly, I used a flexible silicone one, which was great from the non-stick point of view, but for long, slow cooking was not so great as it allowed the outside to burn too easily without transferring the heat into the mixture. I still love it, but not for fruit cake – it works best for light, quickly cooked mixtures.
I also don’t ice/frost my cake. Personally, I love the whole apricot jam, then marzipan, then royal icing bit, but too many other people hate it and won’t eat a perfectly good cake if there’s any hint of marzipan. So I leave it off 😦 The sacrifices I make to keep other people happy…
Anyway, in case you need a very yummy Christmas cake recipe which can also be gluten free, you’ll need:
A total of 1.25kg/2.75 lb dried fruit, whatever mixture takes your fancy
1 cup rum/whisky/brandy/sherry/port
1/2 cup water
1 cup/8oz dark soft brown sugar
1 tsp each of cinnamon and allspice
1 tablespoon golden syrup (thick texture, like stiff honey, not runny like pancake syrup)
Zest of 1 orange, juice of half orange
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1.75 cups plain flour (gluten free if necessary)*
.25 cup self raising flour (gf if necessary)*
5 medium eggs, beaten.
*You can use 2 cups all purpose flour and add just a little baking powder.
As always, use either imperial or metric measures, don’t mix them.
Put all the fruit, alcohol, sugar, syrup, spices, water and orange zest and juice in a large pan over a low heat. Add the butter and bicarb. Bring to the boil very slowly, stirring frequently to stop it sticking. Once it has boiled, set it on a rack to cool.
Turn on the oven, and preheat to 150C/300F. Line a 23cm/9″ cake pan with a double thickness of baking parchment.
Once the fruit mixture is no more than barely warm, stir in the beaten eggs and the well sifted flour. Mix thoroughly until well combined. Dollop the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth over the top with a spatula. Make sure there’s no one else around at this stage, so you get to lick the bowl yourself… Bake in the preheated oven for 2-2.5 hours. Cover with foil if the top starts to get too dark before the cooking time is up. When done, cool on a rack, cover fully and tightly with foil, and leave in the pan overnight to cool. After that, keep in an airtight cake storer.
Personally I find this cake irresistible. I have been caught in the middle of the night, devouring a large slice with a big mug of tea on the side. But then, I’ve gone to the trouble of making it, so I feel I have grazing rights…. The other bonus is that it’s not a hard cake to make. The toughest bit is assembling the ingredients. A good, well made fruit cake is the food of the gods, and this one’s right up there, even if I say so myself. I’ve done a lot of experimenting and sampling over the years, and this one’s the culmination of my self-sacrificing consumption of endless fruit cakes! It’s neither hard, dry, indigestible or boring. So if you’ve suffered the tortures of hell at the hands of Great Aunt Phoebe’s rock hard monstrosity every Christmas, do yourself a favour, and give it a try.
Now, how many days was it till Christmas?