December 19, 2007

christmas cake

Today was the day for my favourite Christmas baking task...the cake. And this is my favourite fruitcake recipe. I cut it out of a Better Homes and Gardens mag years ago. It was called Nut-glazed Quick Christmas Cake, and I used to make it in two loaf tins - one for us and one for my late father-in-law who loved fruitcake. It reappeared in delicious a couple of years ago on Belinda Jeffery's page and I thought it strange that it was exactly the same recipe that I used. Until I remem-bered Belinda used to be on BH&G on tv. And now it's in her gorgeous new cookbook "mix & bake".

I'm not that fond of fruitcakes made by the creaming method - they always seem a bit dry. This one is more like a boiled fruit cake and it's terrifically dense and moist. Fruitcake lovers who taste it always want the recipe :

Belinda Jeffery's Last Minute Christmas Cake

300g unsalted butter

420g raw sugar

380g raisins

180g pitted prunes

160g sultanas

90g currants

90g pitted dates

2 tspns bicarb soda

1/2 cup brandy or dark rum

1 1/2 cups cold water

2 tspns ground nutmeg

2 tspns cinnamon

4 eggs, lightly beaten

2 1/2 cups stone-ground wholemeal plain flour

To decorate:

raw pecans/whole blanched almonds

or, purchased soft icing plus a mixture of silver and coloured cachous

Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add all the fruit, bicarb, brandy and water. Increase heat and keep stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 4 mins. (Watch that it doesn't froth up and over sides of pot because of the bicarb.) Leave to cool to room temperature in pan.

Preheat oven to 150 C. Butter a 23cm springform tin and line base and sides with 2 layers of buttered baking paper. Add nutmeg, cinnamon and eggs to cold mixture. Stir in the flour, then leave to sit for a few minutes. Spoon mixture into tin, and decorate the top with the whole nuts if using. Bake for 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. If after an hour's cooking cake is getting too brown, cover top loosely with foil to stop it getting darker. Leave to cool completely in tin on a rack. Remove from tin when cold and remove baking paper. Wrap in plastic wrap then foil and store in the fridge, where it will keep for about 6 weeks. For a nice shiny finish, cake with nut topping can be brushed with a little warmed apricot jam before serving.

This amount of mixture will also make a 19cm square cake, lined with 2 layers of paper and baked at 150 C for approx. 2 1/4 hours, or 4 small square10cm cakes. Line the small tins with 1 layer of baking paper and bake in 150 C oven for approx. 1 1/2 hrs. Placed on a square of cardboard and wrapped in cellophane, they make lovely gifts. This year I've made two batches of the small ones (that's last year's big cake in the top pic) and will give all but one of them away.

To decorate large and small cakes with icing and cachous:

Turn cake(s) upside down to decorate. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in small saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil and simmer uncovered for 1 minute. Leave syrup to cool. Roll out purchased white fondant (500g is enough for 1 large cake or 4 small ones). Brush cake(s) with sugar syrup and cover with a square of fondant. Place a Christmassy biscuit cutter on top of cake as a guide. Brush inside the cutter with syrup. Sprinkle silver and coloured cachous inside the cutter. Lift off carefully. Leave to dry completely before wrapping.

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