Baking My Christmas Cake

I’ve not baked one for a couple of years and bought a cheat kit by Delia Smith at Waitrose (link will probably only work for the season). It costs £10.00 for the kit which contains the dry ingredients you need to make an 8″ (20cm) fruit cake – you will need to add wet ingredients at an extra cost. It is currently on offer for £7.50. I had a voucher for £2 off, so that brought it to just £5.50 which I think is a bargain! The fruit alone for a Christmas cake would probably cost in that region, if not more, so yes, excellent value – plus you have just the right amount of ingredients meaning no excess left that you don’t know what to do with!

So here is the kit – it comes in a nice box which also clearly tells you the extra things you are going to need – eggs, butter, an orange and a lemon. I also found out, when opening the recipe card that I would need 1/2 teaspoon of salt and brandy (or Armagnac) to ‘feed’ the cake. Plus marzipan, ready-to-roll white icing and silver balls to decorate.

Everything is neatly packed in – all weighed out for you!

Inside the box you get a recipe card, a bag of booze soaked dried fruits, a bag of brown sugar, a bag of flour, a bag of chopped almonds, a sachet of mixed spices and a sachet of treacle. As I said earlier, the fact that it is the exact amount that you need, means no wasting of stuff – especially the treacle which only comes in huge tins that would probably never see the light of day again!

Upon opening the recipe card I’m greeted with a nice layout, with the ingredients on the left telling me what is in the pack as well as the extra things I’m going to need. The instructions are on the right. On the back it tells you how to decorate the cake. I won’t be following that ;)

I get the extra ingredients together – butter (softened), eggs and an orange and lemon.

The card then tells me that I need to grease and line an 8″ (20cm) round baking tin. I’ve made fruit cake many times over the years so I knew the drill! I got together the things I needed for that – cake release (or butter would do to grease the pan), string, greaseproof paper and brown paper.

Because fruit cake is in the oven for a very long time (this cake is baking for 4 hours!) you need to double line the tin, as well as wrapping a layer of brown paper around the outside – this helps to prevent burning.

I used a pastry brush to spread the cake release around the tin before adding a circle of greaseproof paper to the bottom of it, then another dab of cake release and another circle of paper and then a final smearing of cake release – this cake isn’t sticking! I measured out the greaseproof for the sides by wrapping the paper around the tin, cutting it and folding it over to give me double thickness. Using cake release to stick the paper to the sides of the tin and then more of the stuff is brushed on – job done!

I measured out the brown paper in the same way and tied it around the outside of the tin with some string. I purposely leave the greaseproof paper and brown paper high above the tin as my oven is very hot and has a tendency to burn cakes on occasion :(

I’m told to pre-heat my oven to 140C (gas mark 1). I turn mine down to 120C as I’ve got a fan assisted oven and I know that I have to set mine 20C less that what is recommended in recipes.

I always make sure I read a recipe through so that I know what to expect, and to make sure I have everything I need to hand. The instructions tell me that the treacle will be easier to squeeze out of the sachet if I pop it into a cup of warm water – so that’s what I did!

I then have to sift together the flour, spices and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a mixing bowl.

Easy peasey – snip open the bags and pour in!

I then add the sugar…

…crack in the 5 medium eggs…

…and drop in the butter.

I used my Kenwood mixer to whisk everything together, but you could use a hand-held electric whisk, or even a good, old fashioned wooden spoon. The recipe tells me to beat everything together until the mixture is light, pale and fluffy.

Now for the booze soaked fruits and chopped nuts. When I opened the packed of dried fruit it nearly knocked me out with the fumes! Smelled wonderful!

Taking the treacle sachet out of the hot water I snipped a corner off , squeezed it into the mixture and proceeded to fold everything in until well mixed – it takes a while as there is a LOT of fruit!

Next up was the addition of lemon and orange zest. I’ve got this handy-dandy zester, but you could use the fine side of a box grater or microplane. I have both of those too, but love using the zester!! Give the zest a stir into the mixture too.

Now the cake mixture is ready to be transfered to the baking tin. With a big spoon I dropped the batter into the tin and then spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon.

For added protection through the long slow cooking process, I’m told to lightly cover the top of the cake with a double square of greaseproof paper that has a 50p size hold cut out in the centre. I didn’t cut a circle >_< just a diamond shape and I’m sure it will do the same job!

Into the oven the cake goes for 4, yes FOUR hours! It’s still cooking, with about 45 minutes left on the timer. I’ve resisted the urge to open the oven door as the instructions tell me not to look for 4 hours! It also says that it can sometimes take 35 – 45 minutes longer than 4 hours, so I guess time will tell if that is the case for me!

When the time is up it says to test the cake is cook by seeing if it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched – there is nothing worse than part cooked cake, so I’ll be checking and double checking and putting it back in the oven if needs be.

I’ll add to this post when it has finished cooking.

Update!

And here is the baked cake…even with all that protection, it has still burned around the edges :'(

It was springy to the touch so that told me it was ready and I didn’t need any extra cooking time – thankfully – I’d be left with a burnt crisp of a cake!

I have to leave it to cool for half an hour in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling down. After that’s done, I ‘feed’ the cake with brandy (or Armagnac) by making small holes in the top and bottom and spooning the alcohol in. I’ll then wrap it up in greasproof and then tin foil to protect it until I decorate!