When do you make your Christmas cake?
This was my dining room table yesterday as I prepared to bake two recipes today. Christmas cake isn’t necessarily difficult, it just takes a lot of ingredients, expensive ingredients, especially when you’ve got to buy the booze. And then there’s the time in preparing the cake pan. This time round I had 3 cake pans to prepare.
Labour Weekend is usually the time I make my Christmas cake. And if I forget, and it’s happened more than once, I make it Show Weekend (mid November). But I didn’t forget, and instead of baking a Christmas cake for us, I baked two different recipes. One that I could split between a 6” round and 6” square cake tin (equals the 9” size the original recipe uses).
Cameron at work subtly suggested that I should be baking a Christmas Cake for work, though he went on to admit any cake is good cake. He has Christmas cake with cream and ice-cream. I have mine with fondant and a serviette. Each to their own.
But as luck would have it, I was undecided which of two recipes I’d make. So I didn’t have to make a decision at all. I made both. Two very different recipes.
I know some families have a recipe that they make each year. We don’t have a family recipe as such. And for many years now I’ve made a different cake recipe. This is the one I made last year.
I guess I’m waiting to find the perfect (for me/us) recipe, then when I get there I’ll stop looking and keep making the same one year after year. Or not. I do like to tinker.
So this year I’ve made this recipe by Mich Turner, which is the 8” cake, and then this recipe for the two smaller cakes, on a blog called Mum’s Business. Mich Turner has a YouTube video of her making the cake if you’re mildly interested.
Neither recipe I stuck to. Here’s why. The recipe by Mich Turner didn’t have Candied Peel. Who makes a Christmas cake without that ingredient. Though the recipe doesn’t say it’s a Christmas cake, so it doesn’t matter that I swapped out some of the cherries for the peel. I have a suspicion that both cakes could do with a LOT more spice. Mr Fussy loves his spices (other than Cinnamon) and I don’t think he’ll find either of these recipes quite hit the mark on that front. And the other change I made was to mix up the spirits. The Mum’s Business cake recipe has both Port and Sherry, and we’re rather fond of Port. So I decided to do away with Brandy (oohh) and have a mix of Sherry (100ml) and Port (125ml).
As for the recipe for Mum’s Business, I made a few changes there too. I don’t like dates so they were out and instead replaced with Raisins. Again, who makes a Christmas cake without Raisins? I was still using the last of the farm fresh eggs I got from Ruth. Some were really small. So rather than 3 large eggs I had 2 size 7 and 2 small farm fresh eggs. And the Walnuts were changed for the more traditional Almonds. Not that Mr Fussy likes those, he doesn’t like nuts. But since the cake will be for our work places it wont faze him at all.
The recipe from Mum’s Business is quite an adventurous recipe for a Christmas cake. It has cocoa and jam, oh, and coffee. Lots of fun trying different recipes.
For both recipes I put a couple of layers of baking paper on the top and took those off when there was about 15 minutes of the original baking time left. I also wrapped the cake tins with layers of newspaper as well as had newspaper on the baking tray and another baking tray at the top of the oven with newspaper on it too. All this to make sure the cakes didn’t dry out.
Both recipes took longer to bake, but I was expecting that. Mich Turners cake took 3hrs 15 minutes and the Mum’s business recipe took 2hrs for the 6” round and 2hrs 30 minutes for the 6” square cake. I had my oven thermometer in the oven and the temperature was correct on both occasions. Perhaps all those layers of newspaper caused the longer cooking time.
The Mum’s Business recipe reserves the liquid from what the dried fruits were soaking in, and then has this brushed over the cake when it’s out of the oven. Once the last cake was out of the oven I brushed the reserved liquid over all 3 cakes.
And now it must be time to wrap them all up and pop them away ready for a weekly feed of brandy. Spot the difference with the 6″ square cakes on the bottom between the non glazed and the glazed (with the reserved liquid)? Hopefully it wont be too sticky. Unwrapping the cakes each week, and re-wrapping them is going to feel like a chore.
One more thing. See the bottom right of the 6″ square cake. Don’t you think the way the two pieces of Almond have fallen make it look a little bit like the North and South Island? Am I the only one that can spot odd things in images?
My plan at this stage is to make my own marzipan and then to cover the cakes at the end of November. Hopefully the fondant wont dry too hard between then and Christmas. Though if I put them into a Tupperware container the fondant will remain soft, it just means I’ll decorate mid December when I can then leave the lid off the cakes. I’m looking forward to decorating them. I know a lot more than I did last year and feel I can make my own decoration rather than buy them. All I have to do is think up some ideas. I might go for something really fun on the work cakes and something more traditional and a little fancier than last year. If my skills allow.