Get Ahead with the British Seniors Christmas Cake

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Sep 01, 2014 by British Blog

What do most people associate with autumn? Falling leaves, chillier days and a new series of Strictly Come Dancing? Perhaps, but for the more organised, autumn is time for something even more important: preparing the Christmas cake!!

For yes, a traditional British Christmas cake should be prepared at least two months before it is to be eaten, because it needs to be 'fed' with alcohol (usually brandy) throughout that period. This 'feeding' and maturing helps to give the traditional British cake its distinctive warm, rich flavours and moist texture.

Actual preparation and cooking of the Christmas cake takes relatively little time: about an hour in all for preparation and around four or five hours for cooking. So for those who would like to enjoy a truly traditional treat this year, here is a recipe.

 

Ingredients:

300g plain flour

300g softened butter

300g soft brown sugar (muscovado sugar gives an extra depth of flavour)

Six large eggs, beaten

525g currants

225g raisins

110g chopped mixed peel

165g halved glacé cherries

Three tablespoons brandy (plus more to be added over time)

Zest of half a lemon

Pinch of salt

Half teaspoon mixed spice

Half-teaspoon cinnamon

Half-teaspoon nutmeg

 

Method:

The day before making the cake, put the currants, raisins, mixed peel and cherries into a bowl with the brandy and leave overnight, for at least 12 hours.

The next day, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1/275°F/140°C and line a 9 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the lemon zest. Add the beaten egg to this mixture but do so slowly, stirring in a little of the egg at a time.

Add the flour, spices and salt to the fruit/brandy mixture and stir well. Pour half of this into the egg/butter mixture and fold in; once this is done, repeat with the other half.

Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and level the surface. Some people tie brown paper around the outside of the tin at this point, to prevent the outside of the cake from burning. Place the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven, and leave it well alone for four hours.

After four hours, touch the cake lightly to see if it feels springy in the centre. If so, it is done, if not then return it to the oven; it may need up to 45 minutes more.

When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it in the tin for half an hour. Then, turn it onto a wire rack until it is fully cooled.

Next, prick the surface of the cake and 'feed' the cake with brandy, wrap it in greaseproof paper and store it in an airtight tin. Over the following weeks, unwrap the cake periodically (around once a fortnight) and repeat this 'feeding' step, each time re-wrapping the cake and returning it to the airtight tin. 

 

Icing & Decoration

Traditionally, Christmas cakes are iced and decorated, although some people simply decorate the top with blanched, sliced almonds. If the traditional approach is preferred, the cake should be iced and decorated a couple of weeks before Christmas.