Tuesday, 4 November 2014

This Year's Christmas Cake

Well here we are in the first week of November and I’m already getting ready for Christmas. If I’m not careful I’ll be getting ahead of myself!

Over the weekend the house smelt like Christmas had already arrived; I made our Christmas pudding on Saturday and on Sunday I made this years’ cake. I used a recipe by Russell Clement, Catering Manager at Flatford, one of the National Trust’s properties. The recipe was on the back of our latest newsletter and I was intrigued by it – I’ve never seen a recipe where some of the fruit was blitzed and then mixed in, but it sounded so good I just had to give it a try. Obviously I haven’t tasted the cake yet but if the taste of the mixture (when I ran my finger round the empty bowl!) is anything to go by it’s definitely a winner.
It looks pretty damn fine to me as it is, but I’ll top it with marzipan and a pattern of glazed nuts and fruit to prettify it a bit. Can’t wait to have a slice with a cuppa a bit nearer the big day!
I emailed Flatford to ask them if I could use Russell’s recipe on the blog and they very kindly agreed, so here it is in its entirety… The only thing I changed was the baking time, although that may be my oven; I ended up cooking it for exactly 3 hours.
Fruit-packed Christmas Cake
100g dried pears, finely chopped
100g dried apple, finely chopped
150g raisins
300g sultanas
50g dried sour cherries
100g dried cranberries
50g best quality candied peel, finely chopped
40g candied stem ginger, finely chopped
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 clementines, zest and juice
150ml liqueur e.g. Cointreau, Kirsch, Cassis or Framboise
50g hazelnuts, blanched (or skins removed)
50g almonds, blanched
200g butter, unsalted
175g dark brown muscovado sugar
4 free-range eggs at room temp, beaten
250g SR flour
1.The night before you bake the cake, place all the prepared dry fruit, ginger, ground cloves, bay leaves, zest and juice of the clementines and the booze into a large non-reactive bowl and mix well. Take a big sniff (it's heady stuff and smells wonderful!) then cover and leave to steep overnight in a cool place.
2.Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. (I used an 18cm square tin) Leave the parchment protruding around the edge of the tin, standing about 5-6cm proud of the edge to protect the cake during the long cooking.  Pre-heat the oven to 125C (fan) or 150C (conventional).
3.Toast the nuts until golden brown, place them in a processor and pulse until they are finely chopped. Add the nuts to the fruit mixture, remove the bay leaves, mix well and put 350g of the fruit and nut mixture back into the processor. Blend to a thick paste.
4.Beat the sugar and butter together until the sugar has dissolved then slowly combine the eggs, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour, then stir in the paste and the rest of the fruit and nut mixture.
5.Spoon the mix into the tin and level the surface well. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 2-2½ hours. Check the cake by inserting a skewer or knife into the centre and see that it comes away clean.
6.Leave the cake in the tin to cool then remove, leaving the parchment in place, and wrap tightly in foil until the big day.
7.This cake is very versatile, it will take any kind of finish you like from a simple glaze to draping in fondant so let your imagination guide you!