With the schools starting a new academic year I wanted a little side project to help ease the transition of seasons, and so I have decided to try and recreate (or, rather, take inspiration from) my grandmother’s Christmas cake recipe to bake my own rich fruit cake for the Christmas period.
My grandmother, ‘Nan’, would bake Christmas goods every year, relying on the same old, faded recipe notes that she had written down decades before. There was actually another recipe that I think may have been lost to time as it was just shreds of fibrous paper the last time I remember seeing it in her hands, but I think that may also be the recipe that she copied again into her book.
I have a few remnants of her writing to refer to, as well as her newspaper clippings.
I have used as much of the information in the combined recipes of Nan’s, along with her newspaper clippings as I can to try and come up with something close to the recipe she used. It’s hard to get a definitive recipe as the writing is faded and missing in parts. I have filled in these gaps with the combined knowledge of the wonderful Mary Berry and a little bit of Delia, as well as a final check in with the good folks at BBC Good Food.
I spent a good time comparing recipes and ratios, and I’ve come up with he below plan. I’ve added dates, which aren’t found in any of the recipes I’ve looked at, but which I’m sure will not feel out of place. I hoped this little nod to those who say they aren’t really keen on Christmas cake might tempt them in with their sticky, toffee ways.
Now, I should say in advance that this isn’t a recipe to try. If anyone who isn’t me happens to be reading, this is not a recipe to share and enjoy, unless you are very, very happy to experiment. This is my own little experiment, and I am documenting my plans and experiences here. My plans are below, for me to refer to in ease as I cook.
Family Christmas Cake
A cake recipe developed and tweaked and made many times by my grandmother, with a few little updates of my own.
Dried Fruits & Soaking Liquor
- 500 g Mixed dried fruit made with added cranberries and apricots if possible
- 200 g Raisins
- 120 g Dates chopped
- 100 g Glacé cherries chopped
- 80 g Chopped mixed peel
- 100 ml Spiced rum, or brandy
- 225 g Plain flour
- 1 tsp Baking powder
- 1 tsp Mixed spice
- 60 g Ground almonds
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Nutmeg
- 1 tsp Salt
- 100 g Flaked almonds
- 225 g Soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp Black Treacle or molasses
- 4 Large eggs
- 225 g Butter softened
- 1 Orange finely grated zest and juice
- 1 Lemon finely grated zest only
- 1 tsp Vanilla paste
Weigh and add all of the dry fruits to the soaking liquor in a large bowl, and cover with clingfilm for 2 hours, or preferably overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 140℃
Line baking tin with a double thickness of baking parchment.
Sift flour, baking powder, spices and salt into a large bowl or stand mixer.
Add sugar, ground almonds, treacle, butter and eggs, and mix to combine.
Add the soaked fruits, flaked almonds, orange juice and fruit zests, and mix again.
Transfer cake batter into baking tin and level top with a spatula.
Cover with a double layer of parchment paper with a 2cm hole cut into the top, resting on parchment collar (not touching the cake or the tin). Wrap outside of cake tin in a double thickness or brown paper or newspaper, tied with string.
Bake for 4 hours.
For now, the fruits are weighed and are soaking in spiced rum. I will continue this adventure tomorrow.
Today is the day of the actual bake. The fruits have spent the night swelling slightly in their rum bath. I have stirred the fruits a few times so that as much of the fruit as possible has had a chance to sit in the rum. It’s had a long soak overnight and is ready to Christmas it up.
I made the cake as per my plans above, but with one last addition. To offset the juice from the orange, which when added seemed to make the batter feel just a little too loose, I added 60g of ground almonds.
The consistency felt really good as I was loading the cake tin with the finished mixture. The mixed smells of the fruits and other ingredients were already apparent in the uncooked batter.
I have wrapped the outside tin in newspaper, with a double parchment ‘lid’ with a 2cm vent hole cut into the centre, resting on top of the paper collar (not ouching the batter), and baked it at 140ºc, checking after 3 hours to make sure it wasn’t catching in the heat. The 3 hour check looked promising.