Confession: I don’t like Christmas cake. The eating of it, that is. But I do love the process of making it: the traditional recipe, then nurturing it with brandy for weeks ahead of the holidays, completing the final steps of marizpan and icing in a hurry on Christmas morning before the guests arrived…
The recipe is from Good Housekeeping, I think (my mother’s copy of the cookbook is so well-used it has no spine left). It lives a sheltered life in the back of cabinet, and if I recall correctly, Kira and I weren’t allowed to touch it when we were kids for fear of further damage.
Anyhoo, here’s the recipe. You should make it at least a few weeks in advance (the internets are conflicted about the optimal baking date, with some people suggesting as early as August).
What you need:
1lb 1oz currants
4oz mixed peel (which I never use)
6oz glace cherries
10oz plain flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
10oz soft brown sugar
grated rind of 1/2 a lemon
6 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp brandy
Preheat the oven to 300F/150C
Use two layers of greaseproof paper to line a 9inch springform cake tin, the tie a double band of brown paper round the outside so it’s about 4 inches above the top of the tin.
Mix currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel and cherries with the flour and spices.
Cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind until fluffy, then add the eggs a litttle at a time (don’t worry if it curdles because it will be fixed by adding the flour).
Fold in half the flour and fruit, then fold in the second half and add the brandy.
Bake in the lower part of oven for about 4 hours. To avoid over-browning the top, cover with double thickness of greaseproof paper after two hours.
When cake is cooked (try to take it out while the middle is still moist), leave it to cool in the tin then turn it out on a wire rack.
Before storing, prick the cake all over and pour another 3tbsp of brandy over it
To store, wrap in several layers of greaseproof paper and put in airtight container OR wrap in clingfilm and aluminium foil and forget the container(the latter works for me)