Below is a guide to making and decorating a Christmas cake. You will need to bake the cake a minimum of 2 months before Christmas in order for the fruits to soak up the alcohol and to allow the flavours to develop.
For the cake: Before you get stuck into it, this recipe ideally requires you to soak your fruits for 24-48 hours prior to baking. You will also need to allow 4-5 hours for your cake to slowly bake on the day so make sure you have enough time!
This year’s version has definitely been my earliest attempt to date. The cake was baked on 30th August 2017, exactly 130 days until Christmas day. Storing the cake correctly and feeding regularly is very important to keep the cake safe for consumption and achieve a mature depth of flavour. This year i will using Rémy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac 1738 to feed the cake, you can order a bottle online for £40-45 or feel free to use whatever cognac or brandy you prefer.
Making the cake
1. Place all the dried fruits large bowl. Pour over your chosen spirit, mix and cover with clingfilm for up to 48 hours. Keep in a cool dry place and occasionally toss the fruits to ensure all get their fair share of booze.
Baking the cake:
1. Heat the oven to 140c and line a loose bottom springform cake tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl sift the flour, spices and salt. Mix so they are evenly distributed. Next add in the eggs, treacle, sugar and butter, whisk until light and smooth.
2. Gradually fold in the pre-soaked fruits and fresh zest.
3. Spoon the mix into your pre-lined cake tin and smooth to create an even surface.
4. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for up to 4.5 hours. Until the cake springs back when touched. If your cake appears to be turning too dark simply cover with foil.
5. Allow the cake to cool completely then brush liberally with your chosen spirit. Finally cover the cake in a double layer of cling film and a double layer or foil. Store in an airtight container and feed as often as you like, i recommend every 2-3 weeks.
Decoration inspiration to come! All questions and comments are welcome.
Lots of leftover dried fruits? Check out my recipe for sultana muffins here.
Update 10.12.2017: Marzipan
Time has gone by way too quickly. There are just 2 weeks until Christmas which means it is time to cover the cake with a layer of marzipan.
The image on the left shows the underside of the cake. You can see where the alcohol has soaked right through to the other side, this is a good sign that the cake will be beautifully moist and boozy throughout!
Start by brushing the cake all over in apricot jam or a marmalade of your choice. I have used Harrods Whisky & Orange marmalade.
Next roll out your disc of marzipan, ensuring you make it big enough to comfortably overlap the edges of your cake. As my family love marzipan, I then roll out any excess marzipan and put an extra disc on top. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want too!
Brush the marzipan with vodka to kill any germs then leave in an air tight container until you are ready to decorate and add the finishing touches!
A few days before Christmas, its time for the final decorating
The finishing touches can be as simple or intricate as you like, as long as you have fun and enjoy the whole process! I am no professional however i loved using my Christmas cake as a platform to get creative. Have a look on Pinterest and see if you can get any ideas for your next show stopper. I opted for a ginger biscuit Christmas tree and chocolate brownie presents, mainly because not everyone in our family likes Christmas cake. (The children demolished the tree within minutes!)
For the white icing brush the marzipan layer with your chosen jam (ideally the same jam that was used to brush the cake previously). Ensure all surfaces, your hands and rolling pin are completely clean and dry, sprinkle a surface with icing sugar and roll your white fondant to the required size, considering that the icing will need to overlap the edges of the cake. Smooth the surface and edges then trim and tuck any excess under the cake.
I then baked one sheet of brownies and used different sized star cutters to create my decorations, ensuring everything was completely cool before being dressed.
For the brownie presents: When the brownie is cooled completely, trim small rectangle and cube pieces, dip into thin icing sugar (to act as a fondant glue) and cover with fondant. Finally top with a fondant bow. You can find a step by step guide on fondant bows on my 2016 Christmas cake link here.
Id love to know if you followed my guide, what your overall thoughts were and how you decorated your cake this year? Feel free to get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
As always, happy Baking,