A rich fruit cake has been a tradition of the Christmas season in England for centuries! Christmas really isn’t complete without one, along with Christmas pudding and mince pies! I used to help my mum with decorations, usually creating a winter scene on the cake with royal icing!
A traditional English Christmas Cake is made with rich, moist currants, sultanas (golden raisins) and raisins, which have been soaked in rum or brandy.
According to the Great British Bake Off website, “Christmas cake actually started life as plum porridge, designed to line people’s stomachs after a day of religious fasting. Soon, other fruits and a dash of honey joined the plums and became the good old Christmas pudding.
Around the 16th century, people began to use richer ingredients so the oats were removed and flour and eggs were added. The pudding started to resemble the kind of fruitcake we’d recognize today. Spices that had started to be brought over from the east were incorporated into the cake to symbolize the three wise men. Richer families could also afford to wrap their cakes in marzipan, making them look much like the Christmas cake we eat today.
These days, most Christmas cakes are made in advance, with festive bakers ‘feeding’ their cake with brandy, rum whisky until the big day.”If you make the cake at the end of October or beginning of November you can regularly feed it in time for the big day.
Trish got busy early making several cakes for different events and as gifts this year. The recipe she used came from a Good Housekeeping book from 1967 that belonged to her grandmother. This same recipe was used to make Trish’s wedding cake in the 1990s. I also had a fruit cake for our wedding cake. Trish’s book is filled with notes, half written recipes and even pressed leaves. It is quite a treasure.
Making a Christmas Cake is not difficult. You just have to make sure you have all the ingredients before you start and have time to be at home while it cooks on a low temperature for a few hours. And then remember to keep your brandy handy to regularly feed the cake over the next few weeks before decorating it.
You can choose how you want to decorate the cake, whether the traditional way with marzipan and royal icing, or simply with a glaze.
And now for the recipe for an 8-9 inch deep round cake tin.
Traditional Christmas Cake
375g (12oz) raisins
375g (12oz) golden raisins (sultanas)
250g (8oz) currants
200g (7oz) tub glacé cherries
50g (2oz) mixed peel
100g (4oz) pecan nut halves, walnuts or almond, roughly chopped
Grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon
4 tblsp brandy, whisky, sherry or fruit juice
350g (11oz) all-purpose flour
1 level tblsp. ground allspice
65g (2 1/2oz) ground almonds
275g (9oz) soft dark brown sugar
275g (9oz) butter, softened
2 level tbsp. black treacle
5 medium eggs
1.Mix together the dried fruit, cherries, mixed peel, nuts, lemon rind and juice and alcohol/juice in a large bowl, cover and marinate overnight.
2.Grease and line an 8-9 inch round, deep cake tin using a double thickness of parchment paper. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside.
3.Preheat the oven to 275°F.
4.Sieve the flour and spice into a bowl, add the ground almonds, sugar, butter, treacle and eggs, mix well, then beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth and glossy. Fold into the fruit mixture until evenly blended.
5.Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a metal spoon, making a slight depression in the center.
6.Place on the center shelf in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 5 hours. Test the cake with a skewer to see if it is cooked 15 minutes before the end of the suggested time.
7.Leave the cake in the tin until cold. Turn out when cooled.
8. You can then poke holes in the top of the cake with a skewer so that the brandy will penetrate when the cake is fed. Wrap the cake in parchment and foil between "feedings"!
8.Serve the cake as is or ice and decorate as you wish. Enjoy throughout the festive season.
This is what ours used to look like when I was growing up. It's a shame I couldn't find one of our photos!