Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Christmas Cake

I consider myself to be a pretty organised person generally. So why have I only just gotten around to making my Christmas cake - almost 2 1/2 weeks after Christmas? Let me explain... 

I was so organised prior to Christmas that I'd decided I wouldn't make a cake this year. I'd already made two Christmas Puddings (note, TWO), dozens of shortbread biscuits and I even made my own fruit mince for mince pies (yes, that's how crazy organised I am). I figured we already had so much food that any thing more would be over-kill.

But I have to say, that fruit mince was my undoing.  I made way too much. After making batches of pies, I still had an embarrassing amount of fruit mince left over.

That fruit mince has been haunting me from the fridge since Boxing Day. It's been throbbing away behind all the post Christmas groceries, getting further and further towards the back of the fridge. All the Christmas food that was purchased or made at the same time is long-gone. Even the Christmas cake's arch enemy, the Christmas Pudding, has left the building.

That dark, rich and unctuous creation I'd made with all the best intentions had turned out to be Frankenstein's Monster. It was a menacing presence, making me feel a) guilty because I had left it languishing, unused and close to it's used-by-date, and b) greedy because I'd made so much I'd gotten myself into this predicament. While it was in the house, I could not rest. 

Enter - the Christmas Cake. I decided that the fruit mince could live out the rest of it's life in a cake rather than my fridge. I feel strangely calm in the knowledge that it will fulfil its fruity destiny after all.

I could pass this off as my 2012 Christmas Cake. I could wrap it up, store it for the long haul to next Christmas and say I'm super-organised. But that would give me a whole world of guilt and I'm not in a hurry to go back there.

Some things I have learned:
  • Make half quantities of fruit mince in future.
  • Left-over fruit mince is excellent in Christmas cake.
  • I will never again neglect to make a Christmas cake.
  • It's ok to eat Christmas cake long after Christmas is over.
  • I'll do anything to avoid throwing good food away. Even if it means making Christmas cake long after the spirit of Christmas has left my body.
  • I'm still as greedy as ever.

Christmas Cake
slightly adapted from Belinda Jeffery's Mix & Bake

300g unsalted butter
420g golden caster sugar
380g raisins
180g pitted prunes
160g sultanas
90g currants
90g pitted dates
2 teaspoonns bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup brandy or dark rum
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups stone-ground wholemeal plain flour
(As I mentioned, I made my cake with left-over fruit mince. If you want to do the same, just chop up the fruit in a food processor, add about 50 grams of grated dark chocolate and a couple of peeled and grated apples and soak the lot in the brandy or rum overnight before you start the rest of the cake.)

To decorate:
Raw pecans/whole blanched almonds 
Apricot Jam

Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add all the fruit, bicarbonate of soda, brandy and water. Increase heat and keep stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Leave to cool to room temperature in pan. I left it overnight.

Preheat oven to 150 C. Butter a 23cm round cake pan and line base and sides with 2 layers of buttered baking paper. Add nutmeg, cinnamon and eggs to cold mixture. Stir in the flour, then leave to sit for a few minutes. Spoon the mixture into tin, and decorate the top with the whole nuts. Bake for 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Cover the top loosely with foil to stop it getting too dark if it looks like its browning too quickly at any stage in the baking. Leave to cool completely in tin on a rack. Remove from tin when cold and remove baking paper. Brush with a little warmed apricot jam before serving. 

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