Stir up Sunday came and went at the end of November, I thought about making a Christmas cake, but I couldn’t really face it. In the past when I’ve made a proper dried fruit Christmas cake my daughter has picked the icing and marzipan off and tried to disguise the fact that she’s eaten barely any of the cake, I’ve picked off the icing and eaten the cake and marzipan, and then in mid-January at least a third of a cake has gone in the compost bin. Some years we’ve gone for a totally different style of cake, like a German Bundt cake style. So I didn’t really think that anyone would mind if I gave it a miss.
I was wrong. A few days ago the kids both asked when I was making a Christmas cake and said how much they loved the spicy fruity smell in the kitchen while it was cooking. Unable, as ever, to resist flattery when it comes to cooking, I decided to go for it, but to make it as easy as possible. There are lots of ingredients in this but absolutely nothing fancy at all in the way you make it. And of course you could reduce the variety of dried fruits – if I’m honest I just used up all the dregs of packets that were sitting in my cupboard and getting perilously close to their used by date. Who am I kidding? Some of them were past their sell by date, but they’re dried fruits, they looked okay, they smelled okay, they tasted okay. If I don’t do another blog, you’ll know they weren’t okay.
Very Easy Christmas Cake
50g dried cranberries
75g chopped dried figs
100g chopped dried prunes
100g chopped dried apricots
75g chopped dates
1/2 jar Apricot jam
3 Tablespoons Marmalade
140ml dark rum (substitute orange juice if you want to make it alcohol free)
Zest and juice of one large orange
250g dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
250g plain flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground nutmeg
20 or 22cm springform cake tin
Put the butter, brown sugar, rum, orange juice, jam, marmalade and orange zest into a large saucepan. Add the dried fruits and heat gradually to melt the butter, stirring as it melts, then bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then turn off the heat. Leave to stand for around 30 minutes while you do the next bit.
Put the oven on to 150 C. Grease and line the cake tin with a double layer of greaseproof paper. A springform tin is a good idea if you have one. The greaseproof paper at the side should stick up above the top of the tin as in the picture.
Add the flour, baking powder, spices and beaten egg to the mixture after the half hour. Pour carefully into the prepared cake tin. I found that this quantity was quite a lot for my 20cm cake tin but the next size up I have is huge, so you might find that if you have a 22cm tin that it would be the perfect amount for that.
Wrapping an additional layer or two of brown paper around the outside of the tin can be helpful to prevent the sides and top of a christmas cake burning but I didn’t bother and it turned out fine.
Put in the oven and cook for 100-120 minutes until the top is brown (but not black!) and a skewer poked into the middle comes out very slightly damp but not claggy. Leave to cool in the tin. Then wrap in greaseproof paper and aluminium foil until you’re ready to decorate it.
Obviously I haven’t tasted it yet but it did make the whole kitchen smell delicious, so much so, in fact that the children threatened to eat it then and there, and it was only when I promised to make another cake for immediate consumption that they relented. The other cake, which was a complete fabrication – a sort of banana, apple, almond and polenta cake – turned out rather well and lasted less than 24 hours, so I will write that one up when I get a chance.