Delia's Christmas Cake: It's December next weekend & I've decided I can no longer be in denial about Christmas, so it's time to make the Christmas cake. I've made this cake for the past 3 years & it's always delicious so we are making it this year with a tiny few tweaks. Hubby isn't keen on nuts or cherry's so I have replaced them with dried cranberries, a tasty substitution & still festive! Ingredients For the pre-soaking: 450g currants 175g sultanas 175g raisins 100g cranberries 50g mixed chopped candied peel 100ml brandy For the cake: 225g plain flour ½ teaspoon salt ¼ level teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated ½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice 225g dark brown soft sugar 5 medium eggs 1 dessertspoon/ 10ml black treacle 225g spreadable butter zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange For feeding and topping: Armagnac or brandy to 'feed' the cake 100g whole blanched almonds (only if you don’t intend to ice the cake) Equipment A 20cm round loose-based cake tin, greased, with base and side lined plus some baking parchment. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of the tin for extra protection
Method 12hrs before you make the cake You should get the pre-soaking ingredients ready the night before you make the cake. Put all the fruits in a bowl and mix them with the brandy, cover with a cloth and leave them to soak for a minimum of 12 hours.
When you’re ready to cook the cake, pre-heat the oven to 140°C, gas mark 1.
Now all you do is sift the flour, salt and spices into a very large roomy mixing bowl then add the sugar, eggs, treacle (warm it a little first to make it easier) and butter and beat with an electric hand whisk until everything is smooth and fluffy.
Now gradually fold in the pre-soaked fruit mixture and finally the grated lemon and orange zests. Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon and, if you don’t intend to decorate the cake with marzipan and icing, lightly drop the blanched almonds in circles over the surface.
Finally take a double square of baking parchment with a 50p-sized hole in the centre (for extra protection during the cooking) and place this not on top of the mixture itself but on the rim of the brown paper.
Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched.
Sometimes it can take 30–45 minutes longer than this, but in any case don’t look at it for 4 hours.
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 making small holes in the top and bottom with a cocktail stick and spooning in a couple of tablespoons of Armagnac or brandy, then wrap it in parchment-lined foil and store in an airtight tin.
TIP: I feed my cake twice a week until the weekend before Christmas when I ice it in preparation for Christmas evening with a nice cup of tea
You can now ‘feed’ it at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it
Icing instructions & recipe to follow... Michelle, feeling festive now that the house smells of delicious Christmas spices X