The Christmas Cake

I broke family tradition by baking my Christmas Cake on Christmas Eve itself. My mother would have been positively livid because I didn’t give it time to age. In her book the Christmas Cake or fruit cake hat to age at least six months, lovingly giving it a monthly hot brandy bath. First of all I don’t have the freezer space for that anymore. Second, the last thing on my mind in July is the Christmas cake! Ah but I found a express short cut.

©FrogDiva Photography

Let me backtrack a bit and begin with the search for the right recipe. I wanted to try something different this year and experimented with two different recipes from two continents. Might as well try a fusion and see what happens. Well, I ended up with a primarily British Christmas cake and then added my own twist along the way. My daughter was skeptical, as was I, to be honest, but it turned out to be the best darn Christmas Cake I ever made, using prunes, cranberries, raisins, no nuts, Spekulatius spice (pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg), an inordinate amount of butter and alcohol. Then when the cake is baked, drown it in Glühwein (hot mulled wine). The trick is to flip the cake for another drowning for this shortcut. The result is a spectacular gingerbread-flavoured fruit cake that you will want to keep nibbling on even though your tummy is already bursting from the Christmas dinner!

The recipe produces one huge cake or two small loaves, and I went for the second one so I can at least age one cake for a week for New Year!

Up for the challenge?

For the cake:
1 1/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup mixed fruit juice
3 eggs
1 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup coffee liqueur
2 tsp Spekulatius spice or allspice
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup oil
1 tbsp vanilla
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup honey
5 cups mixed nuts and fruits of your choice, chopped
1 cup brandy

For the ageing:
1/2 cup Rum
1/2 cup Martini Rosso
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup whiskey

Soak the fruits in the brandy for 2 hours. Pre-heat the over to 190C
Mix all the ingredients together, add the drunken fruits (with the brandy) and pour the batter into one large springform pan or 2 small bread pans. Bake for 90 min. When the cake is ready, pour half the ageing mixture over the warm cake, wait 30 minutes and then turn the cake over and pour the rest of the mixture.

If you are going to make this ahead of time and age properly, wrap the cake(s) in cheese cloth, pour hot brandy or mulled wine and then wrap in tin foil and freeze. Repeat the process weekly if you bake one month before the target serving date, monthly if you bake four to six months before the serving date, or daily if you completely forget you needed to do this ahead of time and only have a week left!

What did I learn from all this mixing and matching? Don’t be afraid to break free from tradition and try something new. Story of my life.

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