I started making my Christmas cake this evening. I’ve been going to a cake decorating evening class since September; this week we made reindeer cake toppers out of sugarpaste and for the next few weeks we’ll be working on ‘swags and frills’ (yikes) and modelling winter flowers. I decided that instead of working on a polystyrene dummy I would make my own fruit cake – cue a frantic search for the perfect recipe.
For the past couple of years I have been following a very special Christmas cake recipe given to me by an ex-colleague. It’s full of spices and booze and uses a dozen eggs, but I usually allow it to mature for at least a fortnight while ‘feeding’ it regularly with sherry so it wasn’t really suitable for this project. Plus it would be an expensive cake to waste if the results of my decorating endeavours are a little rough around the edges.
I rather fancied doing something involving champagne and was starting to get a little carried away searching the internet for recipes. As so often happens, Mum came to the rescue – she suggested the one below. (She had given it three stars in her book…this is pretty much the holy grail so it must be good.)
Boiled Brandied Apricot Fruit Cake, from The Australian Women’s Weekly Cakes & Slices Cookbook
1 .25 cups (250g) chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped raisins (easiest way to chop them is in a food processor)
0.75 cup chopped dates
0.75 cup glace cherries
1 cup sultanas
0.25 cup currants
0.5 cup mixed peel
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup water
0.5 cup brandy
0.25 cup apricot jam
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1.5 cups self-raising flour
1.5 cups plain flour
Double-line a deep 19cm square cake pan with 2 baking parchment. (I also wrapped mine in a sheet of newspaper and secured it with string.)
Combine fruit, butter, sugar and water in saucepan, stirring constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover, simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in brandy and jam, cover, cool to room temperature.
Stir eggs, then sifted flours into fruit mixture. Spread into prepared pan. (I put the pan on a baking tray lined with newspaper.)
Bake at 170C for about 2.5 hours. Cover with foil, cool in pan.
Keeps for 1 month.
The cake (well two actually, as I used a smaller size tin than they suggest) is in the oven as I type, and it smells great. I’ll let you know how it turns out…
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Happy day at work yesterday. On Tuesday I gave a colleague a few of my recipes to try out for a dinner party she’s having this weekend…green apple sorbet, butternut squash soup with chorizo and rocket, mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, perfect crumble topping. She said she would pass me some of her recipes in return but, being the cynical old misery that I am, I didn’t really expect this to happen. However, yesterday a sheaf of photocopied pages landed on my desk; amongst others there were recipes for lemon souffle, sticky toffee banana pudding, pan-roasted chicken with salami, and potato and leek parcels with garlic and rosemary. And then this morning, yet more…lamb tagine, chicken liver pate, sticky stem ginger cake with lemon icing. Can’t wait to have a go at some of these.
I do love it when people are generous with recipes, it makes the world a nicer place. I also realised yesterday that the times when I am at my most animated at work are invariably when I’m talking about food and cooking…hmmm, perhaps I need to reflect on that and what it means for my career choices some other time!