Posted in: How To
Bake the Perfect Christmas CakeThe adverts have been launched, the lights are being hung on high streets up and down the country and the lists are being compiled, checked and checked again – that’s right, it’s nearly Christmas! While we’re trying our best to avoid festive burnout here at Tower HQ, we wanted to help you get ahead of the game with a real festive family favourite that is sure to please the crowds on Christmas Day and beyond. With just over 5 weeks to go until the big day, now is the perfect time to get started on your Christmas cake to give you plenty of time to build those flavours for a moist, fruity cake that’s as great with a cuppa as it is with your cheese board! When it comes to this Yuletide classic, it can seem a little daunting to those not well versed in the ways of this British tradition, but don’t panic as we’re here to help with our fool-proof guide to making the perfect Christmas cake.
A Whole Lotta HistoryHistorically, it’s thought that Christmas cake as we know it originates from plum porridge, a 15th century spiced oat based dish filled with dried fruits and eaten on Christmas Eve to line the stomach after a day of fasting. As time went on, the oats were replaced by butter, flour and eggs turning the plum porridge into more of a pudding with wealthier aristocratic houses able to use ovens to create what we now know as a Christmas cake. It’s also thought that the spices added into the cake mix represent the three wise men from the Nativity story.
The RecipeMakes: 12-15 slices Time: 2 hours 35 minutes Ingredients
- 1kg mixed dried fruits (a mixture of sultanas, raisins, currants, glace cherries, cranberries and figs works best)
- 200g light soft brown sugar
- 250g butter (softened)
- 175g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 4 large eggs
- zest and juice 1 orange
- zest and juice 1 lemon
- 100g ground almonds
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 100g flaked almond
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 150ml brandy (plus extra to feed)
- In a large pan, place the dried fruit, zest, juice, alcohol, butter and sugar and simmer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, transfer the fruit mixture into a bowl and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
- While the fruit cools, preheat the oven to 150°c and line a 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment. Use a double layer of newspaper to create a cuff around the outside of the tin, securing with string.
- Add the remaining ingredients into the fruit mixture and stir with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir well to get rid of any pockets of flour. Transfer the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top and place in the centre of the oven to bake for around 2 hours.
- Remove the cake from the oven and use a skewer to poke holes through the cake before spooning over 2 teaspoons of brandy. Leave the cake in the tin and allow to cool fully.
- When the cake is cool, remove the parchment, then wrap in cling film and store in an airtight container.
- To build the flavours and keep the cake moist, feed the cake with 1 tsp of brandy each week until you’re ready to decorate.
Decoration, Decoration, DecorationThere’s plenty of ways that you can decorate your Christmas cake and with plenty of festive cake inspiration as well as decorating accessories lining the shelves, you really can let your creativity go wild.
Whether you’re going for a modern masterpiece or something a little more old school, there’s still a couple of basic tips that you can use to ensure the perfect finish and as the old adage goes, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
- In a small saucepan melt some apricot jam with a little water and brush this all over the surface of the cake to help the marzipan adhere to the cake.
- On a floured surface, roll out your marzipan to a large circle (around 45cm wide)and use the rolling pin to transfer onto the cake, ensuring that the centre of the circle is in the centre of your cake.
- Use your hands to smooth the marzipan and trim off any excess.
Cake-spirationTraditionally, Christmas cakes are adorned with Royal Icing which is smoothed on using a palette knife and often made into peaks to create a snowy texture add tree’s, a snowman and Father Christmas and you have yourself a traditional cake to be proud of. A more modern take is to cover the cake in a smooth fondant icing which can then be covered whatever festive figures you fancy from snowflakes or snowmen to holly leaves, wreaths or even a simple ribbon. We hope that's given you all of the inspiration you need to get baking this weekend, we'd love to see your finished Christmas cake creations! Share your finished photos with us on our Facebook or Twitter pages!