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A real Christmas tree but a shop bought cake?
Member Name: lellagrace
Advantages: Left to mature, the cake tastes better.
Disadvantages: Not everyone has time to bake
I know it is only September but this is the time of year when I bake my Christmas cakes. Not everyone likes the rich fruit cake but in my family it would not be Christmas without Christmas cake. By baking it so early, the cake has time to mature before it is eaten and is a rich, moist cake for Christmas.
There are various stories associated with the origins of Christmas cake. Some say that the cakes were originally baked as puddings, others say they were prepared from all the ingredients found in the kitchen that could be added together to make a rich and substantial cake for the festive season.
My mother used to make her Christmas cakes on a Sunday afternoon and as children my father would amuse us while she got on without interruption. However, when the mixture was safely in the baking tins we were allowed to eat the remaining mixture around the sides of the mixing bowl.
The recipe I use is my own, a combination of old family recipes with a bit of my own "artistic licence". Every year I make a large quantity and bake three or four loaves and a large square or round cake, plus several smaller ones.
The loaves are sliced and are delicious eaten with Cheshire cheese (an old Yorkshire custom). The largest cake is eventually covered in marzipan and iced. The smaller ones are decorated in the same way but I take these to elderly friends and relatives who appreciate home made cake, but are now unable to make their own.
One thing that amazes me every year is when I hear people say they always have a real Christmas tree, as they feel it makes a "real" Christmas. But they then say they have bought a Christmas cake at M & S or the supermarket. I would prefer an artificial tree to a mass produced cake thank you.
It is probably cheaper to buy one cake at the supermarket, but as I make a large amount it is more cost effective to make my own.
I decide to set a day aside to do my baking and then make sure I have all the ingredients assembled the night before.
The fruit is put in a large mixing bowl and I pour brandy over it (use as much as you like, but a cupful should be adequate). The brandy then soaks into the fruit overnight and is ready to add to the cake mixture.
That was some additional information, here is the recipe
The quantity shown will make one large cake (8" deep tin) or two loaves.
2 lbs Mixed fruit
4 oz glace cherries
8 oz butter (I always use butter, but margarine will do)
8 oz soft dark brown sugar
1 tbsp black treacle
5 large eggs
10 oz plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add treacle. Beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 tbsp flour with last egg.
Sift together dry ingredients and stir into creamed mixture, alternately with fruit.
Mix well and then spoon into tins, greased and lined with two thicknesses of greaseproof paper.
Bake in a slow over for two hours. (Gas 2, 300F, 150C)
Check cakes are done by pressing lightly on top, if an imprint is left return cake to oven. If the top springs back when pressed then it is done. You can double check by inserting a thin knitting needle or skewer into the cake, if it comes out clear the cake is done, if any mixture is left then it needs longer.
Leave the cakes to cool in the tins and when cool turn out onto a baking tray and remove the greaseproof paper.
I store my cakes by wrapping them in greaseproof paper and putting them into an airtight tin, or wrapping them in foil. DO NOT wrap the foil directly onto the cake as the acid in the fruit may react with the foil.
Every couple of weeks I take out the large cake and feed it with brandy. To do this turn the cake upside down and make several holes with a skewer, then pout brandy over the cake. This ensures the cake keeps moist and it tastes delicious! You can do the same with the other cakes, but I only feed the largest one.
About a month before Christmas I put the almond paste on the cakes that are going to be iced and leave this for two weeks before icing them. However, you can do this in a couple of days if you are short on time, just remember to let the almond paste dry out for at least 24 hours before icing over it, otherwise the oils will seep out and discolour the icing.
The addition of dark brown sugar and black treacle makes the cake a rich dark brown, but if you prefer to use lighter coloured brown sugar then this is okay.
To line your tins, cut our strips of greaseproof paper and melt some margarine in the microwave, then using a pastry brush, brush the inside of the tins and add a layer of paper, repeating the process with the second layer and finally brush the lining to make sure the cake doesn't stick to it.
When visitors arrive over the weeks leading up to Christmas it is customary where I live to offer them a slice of Christmas cake, and a piece of cheese.
The large, iced cake is left until Christmas Day before it is cut and then it is centrepiece on the evening buffet table. You can rough ice this by covering with royal icing and forming it into peaks with a knife. Add a small tree decoration or similar and you have a pretty cake. You can also cover the cake in fondant icing and just add a ribbon around the sides. If you want to be more adventurous with the icing then look in magazines or cake decorating books for ideas.
One last thing, Santa Claus loves Christmas cake so before the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve leave a slice of cake and a glass of sherry for Santa. He has been eating cake and drinking sherry since I was a child, so he must enjoy it!!!
Summary: Home made Christmas cake tastes good!
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