I think it must have been in about 2009 that I started making my own christmas cakes. I tried a few different recipes in the early years but since giving Delia’s Classic Christmas Cake recipe a go I haven’t looked at another recipe.
I have tinkered with the quantity of some of the ingredients over the years and have to disagree with Delia’s insistence on not checking the cake unit at least 4 hours has passed, mine is always cooked at around 3hrs 50 so I feel her timings are vastly overstated. Hopefully below you will find the recipe for a dark and fruity Christmas cake laced with brandy, rum or whisky as you see fit.
I suggest placing a roasting tin of boiling water below the shelf on the bottom of the oven right before baking the cake as the steam helps to make a moister cake. I also place a baking tray on the rack above the cake as this further protects the top from burning.
Makes an 8″/20cm cake
Your pre soaked fruit mix:
70g glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
30g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
grated zest 1 lemon
grated zest 1 orange
75g almonds, chopped (the skins can be left on)
225g white spelt or plain flour
½ level tsp salt
¼ level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ level tsp ground mixed spice
225g unsalted butter
225g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 level dessertspoon black treacle
Brandy for ‘feeding’
Pre-heat the oven to 140c or gas mark 1 and double line a deep loose bottomed 8″/20cm cake tin with baking parchment. Make a band of brown paper or newspaper to fit outside the cake tin and secure with paper clips. This will protect the cake during the long slow baking process.
Now begin the cake by grating the orange and lemon zest into the bowl you have been soaking your fruit in and then add the chopped almonds and stir it all together to distribute everything evenly and then set aside.
Sift the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Next, in a separate large mixing bowl or stand mixer, whisk the butter and sugar together until it’s light, pale and fluffy.
Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time; keep the whisk running until all the egg is incorporated. Adding the eggs slowly like this should prevent the mixture from curdling. If it does, don’t worry, mine curdles without fail every year and it still tastes good!
When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices, using gentle, folding movements to keep all the air in. Now fold in the fruit, zest, chopped nuts and treacle. The treacle will be easier to measure if you remove the lid and place the tin in a small pan of barely simmering water.
Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spreading it out evenly with the back of a spoon. Finally cover the top of the cake with a double square of parchment paper with a 50p-size hole in the centre as this gives extra protection during the slow cooking.
Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for approximately 4 hours. Sometimes it can take up to ½-¾ hour longer than this, but don’t look until 3½ hours have passed. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
When it’s cold ‘feed’ it by brushing over a few teaspoons of brandy, wrap it in double parchment paper and the store in an airtight container. You can now feed it at 2 week intervals until you need to ice or eat it. I turn it at every feed to that it all gets an even infusion of brandy and the weight also evens out any dome on top during the cooking process.