Thursday, 24 November 2011

Say I'm the only bee in your bonnet: Christmas cake

The part of writing and being Penelope's Pantry that I love the most is being able to give people cake, I suppose for me it's a bit like giving people a part of myself. An edible version of love if you will. Like the little boy in the John Lewis ad it's giving presents that I love the most, presents that have something of me in them.

This year I've made three Christmas cakes, one for Mark and myself (and anyone who pops in over Christmas) one potentially for the Guides Winter Weekend, and one for my Mum. I posted here about Ruth's boozy fruit that I adapted to my own tastes (cherries, lots of glace cherries) and put in a cupboard dutifully stirring for 6 weeks. Naturally, come baking time my hand was borked so Mark's mum helped me to bake the cakes. The bee in the bonnet in this post's title comes from a comment from Laura of Hungry and Frozen which was exactly how I felt about making these. I HAD to do them and then when I read her comment the song was stuck in my head *sings* Say you're a little birdhouse in my soul.
I carried on with Ruth's recipe, lining the tins with greaseproof and double thickness of newspaper (thanks Lush for the Lush Times I could put to new use). Mark's mum also gave me a hint to put the cake tins on newspaper in the oven as a way to protect the cake from burning. It's just worth bearing in mind with this for the recipe, in Mark's the cakes took 4 hours, and in mine the last one took 3. I think Louise's took a similar amount of time - had it been just mine, I would have put it down to my dodgy oven, but lots of people were saying that the cake had taken longer to bake than expected so I'm just putting it down to one of those things. I will say this for it, there is nothing quite like the smell of Christmas cake baking, and this smelled amazing. A bit like the real beginning of Christmas.

This is Ruth's recipe, I actually stayed almost true to it (using all soft brown sugar), although I had already adapted the boozy fruit to suit myself

225g butter, softened
225g soft brown sugar
2 tbsps treacle
2 tsps sweet mixed spice
285g plain flour
5 large eggs, beaten

2 pints of  Boozy Fruit already prepared.

150ml brandy for feeding.

This recipe will make an 8″ round Christmas Cake

Preheat oven to a low 150c Fan/170c/Gas Mark 3.
Double line your tin
Cream together butter and sugar
Add the treacle and beat until combined
Add the beaten eggs a little at a time, adding a spoonful of flour after each addition (This actually prompted an interesting discussion between Mark's mum and myself, didn't your cake curdling seem to be the worst thing EVER, Home Ec teachers would threaten our cake mixes with the bin if it even looked like it was going to curdle. Yet now we just don't seem to worry so much... why the change we wondered? Possibly  because it's purely aesthetic?)
Sift in the flour and spice and fold that in
Remove the cinammon stick from your fruit - or all 3 in my case and then add your fruit to the bowl. As I had three quantities of fruit, I measured out roughly 2 pints for each cake
Put in your prepared cake tin, double lined and wrapped in newspaper and bake until a skewer comes out clean

Then pierce the top of your cake with another skewer and feed over the next weeks with brandy - keep it stored in an airtight tin and wrapped in baking parchment and foil
Then you're ready to marzipan and ice - I'll do a full post about decorating, as this is the first year I've really worked at prettifying, normally I just leave them covered in white fondant and let other people do the fancy stuff.

I've finished my first cake which is up for a raffle in aid of Janie's School, here it is wrapped and ready to go. I've used some of the pins from my bridesmaid's bouquet to secure the ribbon for luck.

1 comment:

Sue said...

This sounds delicious! I fully intended to make Delia's Carribean Cake where you soak the fruit for a week but still haven't started! I did make her ordinary Christmas cake about 10 days ago and dosed it well with brandy, but will probably (assuming I ever find time) make the other one as well as fruit cake always seems to vanish really fast in our house.


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