Growing up in a Commonwealth country means that Christmas is filled with warm, rich, stodgy desserts that make no sense in the Summer time but are delicious anyway. Upon moving to the US I discovered to my horror that my beloved Christmas fruitcakes were despised by many. This is my favourite Christmas Cake recipe from the Edmond's Cookbook a New Zealand kitchen staple
. Hopefully it will change your mind about this rich and impressive dessert!
Rich Christmas Cake
1¾ cups orange juice
¾ cup dark rum or brandy
2 Tbsp finely grated orange zest
2 cups sultanas
2 cups chopped dates
150g crystallised ginger, chopped
150g mixed peel
150g glacé cherries, halved
½ tsp vanilla essence
¼ tsp almond essence
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 cup blanched almonds
2½ cups cake flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1½ cups brown sugar
2 Tbsp treacle or golden syrup
5 eggs, beaten
1 yield of my marzipan recipe
(or 500g storebought)
500g fondant icing
2 tbspns apricot jam
Place the orange juice, rum and orange zest in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the dried fruit. Cover and leave the fruit to soak overnight.
The next day stir the essences, lemon rind and almonds into the fruit mixture. Sift the flour, soda and spices into a bowl.
Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Line a deep 23cm square tin with baking paper and tie a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin.
Cream the butter, sugar and treacle until light and fluffy and add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
Fold in the sifted ingredients alternately with the fruit mixture.
Scoop the mixture into the prepared tin then wet your hand under the cold tap and smooth the surface.
Bake for 4 hours or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin on a wire rack, covered with a clean cloth
Wrap in tinfoil and a cloth and store in a cool place.
If you want a more flavoursome cake pour 2–3 tablespoons of brandy or sherry over the cake after it has cooled and before storing it. If the top is crusty, make little holes with a skewer or toothpick to help the alcohol soak in.
(Goth Gourmande's additions)
- I like to bake 1-2 single serve cakes as a test of the mixture, using single serve bundt tins these should take ~45 mins to cook
- This cake is huge and it is hard to find Christmas cake tins this large in the US, consider halving the mix and using a 9 inch spring form pan or splitting into two cakes. In the above picture this recipe has yielded a 9 inch cake, a 7 inch cake and 3 single serve bundt cakes
- Leave the cake to cool in its entirety before attempting to remove from the tin, preferably overnight
- I recommend cooking the cake at least a month before serving and pouring brandy or whiskey on to the cake each week to make it moist and let the flavours develop
To ice and decorate
You can choose to use more glazed dried fruit to top the cake but I prefer traditional marzipan and fondant icing and it lets you create a really festive look!
Start by making (or buying) marzipan, I've provided a recipe for you
that I use regularly. Need into a smooth consistency and then cut into portions that match the division of the cake batter.
We want to glaze the cake with the jam to get the marzipan to adhere to the cake. If you don't like apricot then grape or peach is also suitable but avoid berry jams which clash with the dried fruit. Heat 2tbspns of jam with 1 tbspn of water in the microwave or stove, enough to be malleable.
Set your cake on a cake circle for easy transport, this allows you to carry the cake using the support instead of having to touch the cake itself and makes for easy transfer to a decoratoring wheel or cake tin. Then using a pastry brush glaze the cake all over with the warm jam mixture.
For a smooth finish you may want to fill any air pockets and round edges on the cake with small pieces of marzipan after glazing. This allows the final fondant coat to appear smoother like a crumbcoat when using butter cream.
Roll out the marzipan to 2mm thickness, you want lots of overflow for an easy placement. I use the bottom of the cake pan to measure if I have rolled out the marzipan enough.
Place the marzipan squarely over the cake and begin to smooth down the sides with your hands, then cut off the excess around the bottom of the cake with a pizza cutter.
If you are making a cake of more than half the batter then you may wish to create the top and sides separately. Use the cake tin as a template and then pinch the marzipan to join the edges.
Leave the marzipan to dry over night before icing with the fondant.
The marzipan should have settled into any pockets and adhered to the cake. We need to get the marzipan to adhere to the fondant, instead of jam we only need to brush the marzipan with hot water.
I find fondant a nightmare to make so I buy Wilton Decorator Preferred fondant
which can be bought in most large supermarkets in the US. Knead the fondant until it is malleable and then roll out with a pastry roller dusted with confectioner's sugar.
Flip over the cake, smooth and trim just as we did with the marzipan. Sadly my fondant smoother went missing during our last move so this isn't my tidiest work but it's easy enough to cover the lumps with decoration!
I am very fond of using these Christmas Embossing rollers which imprint a festive design into the fondant, be careful though it makes it harder to smooth the edges without disrupting the design.
For the final decorations I like to colour some of the fondant by kneading in egg colouring dyes and using cookie and pastry cutters for festive designs.
Cut out the coloured pieces and then brush lightly with water to stick to the cake. If you've messed up the fondant this is a nice easy way to cover your mistakes!
Try a variety of cookie cutter designs and use cinnamon candy to make your holly berries.
It's fun to do a different design for every cake and they make a special table centerpiece or fancy home made gift.
And if all of that seems like too much bother then skip the marzipan and fondant and make a good stiff lemon icing; it works great topped with halved glace cherries!