Christmas Cake Part 1

It’s less than a month until Christmas already! Where on earth is the time going? I have almost finished my Christmas shopping, how about you? I decided to start early this year and buy presents rather than make them. After last year making almost 100% of the gifts I gave, I thought it would be nice to buy people presents and focus on making Christmas crafts for myself and also my Etsy shop. It’s also really nice to shop for other people every now and then and I have been really enjoying choosing presents for my friends and family without the extra stress of making them too. Of course I will always be a handmade present kind of girl, I love to give and receive handmade gifts but it’s nice to have a year off too!

At the weekend me and my mum started making our Christmas cakes, a November tradition for as long as I can remember. I used to help mum make a big cake for our whole household and now we split the recipe and make two small cakes so I can take one home with me (not that anyone else in my house eats Christmas cake … just me, a whole cake just for me!)

The is part one of the cake making because we bake the cake in November and then decorate it in December just before Christmas, so watch out for the second part of this post later.

Embarrassing admission time: I charged my camera and took it to my mums house especially to photograph the cake making process for this blog post … but I forgot to bring a memory card so had to photograph the whole thing with my phone! That probably shouldn’t happen to someone who has studied photography for 5 years, I should probably have a memory card on me AT ALL TIMES, but I don’t so sorry about the image quality!

This photo shows the recipe we use to make our cakes, it’s a combination of a recipe from a very old cookbook and some handwritten notes outlining the changes we make to the recipe (I think the handrwitten notes were scribbled on by me as a child) I started out writing out this post like a proper recipe but soon realised that although I help make these cakes every year I just don’t remember exact quantities of each ingredient and I can’t make a lot of sense of this photo of the recipe either! So for now I am hoping that a brief overview of the process and the pictures I took will be enough to inspire you to make your own Christmas cake this weekend, because it is so easy and so rewarding!  Maybe you can dig out an old family cookbook or handwritten notes on your family’s Christmas cake recipe too?

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The first stage is to soak the fruit (sultanas, raisins, candied peel, glace cherries, lemon zest, chopped almonds)  in some brandy or sherry overnight, we do this rather than feeding the cake with alcohol for the weeks leading up to Christmas as we prefer our cakes to be less boozey, but it’s definitely personal preference and adding booze for the next couple of weeks also helps to keep the cake moist!

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Next weigh out the dry ingredients (plain and self raising flour, cinnamon, salt, mixed spice) in one bowl. And weigh out the wet ingredients in another bowl (soft brown or demerara sugar, butter, black treacle) cream the sugar, butter and treacle together until soft.

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Beat the eggs for a while and then add them alternately with the flour and spices to the sugar and butter mixture. This bit is a real work out for your arms after a while! It’s important to add each part slowly and not over beat the misture.

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Next is adding the fruit to the mix, the cake mixture is almost done!

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Once the cake mix is all nicely combined it is time for the boring fiddly part, lining the cake tins. We line both cake tine with two layers of brown paper and one greased layer of baking paper on the bottom and sides before splitting the cake mix evenly bewteen the two tins.

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It is then important to cover the tops of the cakes loosely with two layers of brown paper, we add paper to the sides and then one large piece going all the way over the top to completely cover the cake but still leave space above the cake mix. This does not need to be airtight it just needs to protect the surfaces of the cake from burning as it stays in the oven for a long time.

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The cake needs to be in the oven for about 3.5 hours, at 180c for the first hour and a half and then with the oven turned down to 150c for the remaining time. The spices will make your house smell beautifully Christmassy whilst the cake cooks! When they come out of the oven they will look like the photo below – except hopefully not quite as burnt, not sure how that happened! I think it is only the very edges of the cakes that are burnt so I plan to scrape those bits off before icing in a few weeks time, fingers crossed it tastes ok!

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We keep our cakes in airtight containers until about a week before Christmas when we marzipan, ice and decorate them. I will post about that nearer the time.

I’m sorry this was not really a proper recipe post with quantites etc. But I really hope it has inspired at least one person to make a Christmas cake rather than buy one this year. It’s such a great tradition, especially if you do it with your family or friends!

Do you have any family traditions in the lead up to Christmas? Are you making your Christmas cake soon? I’d love to know!

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