I really don’t know if there is anything better than the smell of Christmas cake baking in the oven. I’m not sure if it’s just the utter deliciousness of the melding spices and fruit and plonk as they permeate the entire house, or how it’s a reminder that Christmas is well and truly on its way. Probably a bit of both I’d say.
And then there’s how it conjures up memories from childhood. As I boiled the dried fruit the other night I was immediately transported to Christmases past, watching mum at the stove, the smells wafting through the house, lifting the lid of the saucepan to see the fruit happily bubbling away. Ah, memories.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been spouting off here, there and everywhere how I’m not doing any Christmas cooking this year. How I would already be doing my own fair share of cooking (ie. cooking up a baby) without adding standing on my already swollen feet for hours, slaving away in a hot kitchen, causing more grief for my poor lower back as I try to reach the kitchen bench over my enormous girth.
Well. So much for that. I just can’t help myself. What would Christmas be without the food?? And cooking is such an important part of that, that I have put up with (kind of – maybe my husband has had to put up with my complaining more 🙂 with the aching limbs and sharp pains in order to fulfil my festive duties. And make a couple of Christmas presents for my lovely obstetrician and midwife along the way!
So, I thought, just in case someone out there doesn’t have their own yummy Christmas cake recipe, I’d share mine. I don’t know where the base recipe comes from originally. It’s probably an old Women’s Weekly or CWA recipe, or something along those lines. Tried and true. And so very simple.
But I like to mix things up a little, so here’s how I did it…
Boiled Fruit Cake
Makes 2 cakes.
375g mixed dried fruit (you know, the pre-mixed, already chopped, hard work already done stuff?)
375g whatever other dried fruit you feel like adding (I used chopped dried apricots, dried figs, prunes and raisins – just what I happened to have open already in the fridge)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup port (or whatever other sweet alcohol you might have at hand, like sherry), plus a little extra for soaking after the cakes are baked
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups self-raising flour
2 cups plain flour
glacé cherries and pecans, for decorating
Place all ingredients, except the eggs and flours, in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat and cool overnight with a lid on to allow the flavours to intensify (you can leave this on the stove top or bench – it doesn’t need to be refrigerated).
The next day, preheat your oven to 160 (fan-forced) and line the sides and bases of two round cake tins with baking or brown paper, twice (this helps to prevent the cake from over-browning).
To the fruit mixture in the saucepan, add your eggs and flours and mix well until fully combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the two cake tins and smooth the tops. Use the glacé cherries and pecans to decorate the top in whatever pattern you prefer.
Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 1.5 hours. (I like to check how the cakes are going after about an hour and cover them with aluminium foil at this point to stop the tops from burning. They may need a little longer than 1.5 hours, maybe 10 minutes or so, if the centres are still a little stodgy. I always try to have the centres of my cakes slightly soft, and then I turn the ovens off and leave the cakes in to finish them off. That way I know the cakes won’t be too dry. Just a little trick I’ve learned over my many years of cake baking!)
Remove the cakes from the oven and, while still in their tins and warm, drizzle a little extra of your chosen alcohol over the top, and allow to cool.
Finally, and most importantly, consume!! I like to have mine with thick vanilla custard and maybe a dollop of whipped cream. Delish!