Remember that I told you I am the Kitchen Goddess? Well, earlier this afternoon I made a (nearly) perfect Swiss roll, à la ‘Great British Bake Off’, Mary Berry’s fool-proof recipe.
The secret is to roll the fat-free sponge on some baking parchment sprinkled with caster sugar as soon as you take it out of the oven. It makes it much easier to roll when you put the filling in.
That’s my big tip for the day 🙂
My filling was mascarpone cream with home made plum jam, which is particularly delicious as it’s not too sweet and sickly.
So here’s what it looked like before my FAB hubby and teenage Neanderthol guzzled it.
I thought it was about time I posted that recipe for the Christmas Cake, as I had promised over a week ago. I was going to wait until I made mine this year, so I could post pictures, but I just know that I will forget to take them anyway so here’s the recipe and when I’ve done mine (next weekend) I’ll post pictures then.
Good, well, let’s begin then…
First of all, I will include two separate ingredients lists as I know that many of you are used to American baking instructions, so depending on what you’re used to, pick a list and go with it. It’s possible that there are going to be some things that I just don’t realise need translating – just let me know if there’s anything you’re not sure about and I’ll do my best to interpret 🙂
OK… here goes…
Liz’s Excellent Christmas Cake
Before I begin, I should perhaps point out that making Christmas cakes is a family tradition, unlike any other, that is almost completely sacrosanct in my household. I like to begin with plumping (some say ‘drowning’) the dried fruits on Stir-it-in-Sunday (the last Sunday in October), to give it a good start, although this date is of course quite unnecessary to the production of a fabulous cake. If cooked this early, it may be a good idea to remove the wrappings on or around the beginning of December and drizzle a little brandy or Drambuie over the top of the cake, to ensure that it remains moist and delicious. Remember to wrap it back up again though! What follows is my version on an old classic recipe – the rituals involved with creating each section and the final putting together of the whole mix are as essential a part of it as each of the ingredients, for me at least. Certain ingredients that must be present, although they are impossible to measure, include a generous helping of Love and a sprinkling of TLC, plus a Wish and a Stir from each family member.
This recipe makes sufficient cake mix for one large cake (approx 20 -22cm). A word of warning – if you are making more than one at a time you WILL need some very, VERY large mixing bowls!
UK Metric / US
300g Self Raising Flour/ 2 ⅔ cups Self Rising Flour
5g/ 1 teaspoon baking powder
5g/ 1 teaspoon ground ginger
5g/ 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5g/ 1 teaspoon ground cloves
5g/ 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5g mixed spice/ 1 teaspoon allspice
100g ground almonds/ 1⅓ cups almond meal
80g/ 1 cup flaked almonds
50g/ ⅔ cup chopped mixed nuts
60g/ ⅔ cup finely grated good quality dark chocolate
Large pinch of sea salt
150g/ 1⅔ cup soft dark brown sugar
50g caster sugar/ ⅔ cup white sugar
100g/ ½ cup good quality unsalted butter
100g/ ½ cup Stork baking margarine* (Try ‘Imperial’ brand baking margarine -made by the same company, Unilever!)
NB: It isn’t essential to use different fats -you could use all butter or all margarine, but I like the flavour butter gives and I think that using just butter can make for a slightly heavier cake -just my opinion though!
150 ml/ 5 fluid oz fresh orange juice
150ml/ 5 fluid oz red wine (a ‘fruity’ variety)
75ml/ 2 fluid oz Drambuie or a whiskey liqueur
150ml/ 5 fluid oz milk
30ml/ 1 fluid oz Whisky
4 medium eggs
200g/ 1⅓ cups Currants
200g/ 1⅓ cups Raisins
200g/ 1⅓ cups Sultanas
100g/ ⅔ cup Glacé cherries
100g/ ⅔ cup dried apricots
Juice/ zest of 1 large lemon
Juice/ zest of 1 medium orange
1 cinnamon stick
5g/ 1 teaspoon mixed spice
Approx. 3g/ ½ teaspoon whole cloves
Before starting, assemble sufficient bowls, implements, mixer & measuring tools to enable you to put each section together. I use at least two large bowls to sift flour and all of the dry ingredients together, as well as a mortar & pestle to grind spices & sea salt; another two VERY large bowls are needed for the fruit combination, one of which will be used for the final combination of all the ingredients, plus I like to mix the two different kinds of baking fats in one medium bowl and the two different kinds of sugars in another medium bowl – eventually these will be combined so you could substitute one medium bowl for one of the very large ones. Finally, I use a medium bowl (or measuring jug) for the egg and milk mixture and (optionally) a small saucepan for combining and warming the fruit liquids.
A: Drowning the fruit
AT LEAST 18 hours before you want to start the cooking process, the first section, the Fruit, needs to be combined.
- Use a very large bowl to combine the raisins, currants and sultanas together.
- Pour the wine and orange juice over the dried fruit and steep* whilst you chop the glacé cherries and the dried apricots. (*to ‘steep’ means to soak the dried goods in the liquid so that the dried goods rehydrate adequately)
- Place the chopped cherries and apricots into a medium bowl and steep them in the Drambuie.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the raisins, currants and sultanas into the second very large bowl (preferably a ceramic bowl), leaving the wine and orange juice.
- Transfer this liquid into a small saucepan and heat very gently with the (lightly crushed) cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon (5g) mixed spice and the whole cloves. Do NOT let this mixture boil. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid through a muslin square (or fine sieve) over the dried fruit mix. Discard the dregs from the muslin.
- Add the Drambuie, cherries and apricots mix and combine using a metal spoon and a folding motion.
- Leave to steep for as long as possible (At least 6 hours is OK, 18 hours is better)
B: The Dry Ingredients
Remember you need plenty of space for this bit!
- Sift the flour and baking powder together, with the pinch of salt (grind this in a mortar & pestle to a fine powder), giving lots of air to the mix as you sift.
- Combine all of the spices together in a bowl and add to the flour. Sift these together into a second bowl.
- Grate the chocolate using a very fine grater. Add to the flour and spices mix.
- Add the flaked and ground almonds. Fold together using a metal spoon to combine. Put this to one side.
C: Creaming the cake mix: this is in two stages:
- Crack the eggs into a medium bowl, use a whisk to break them up a little and then add the milk. Mix together with an electric hand mixer. Put to one side
- Put the two sugars into a very large mixing bowl* and fold together with a metal spoon.
- Put the two baking fats together in a microwave-proof bowl and warm gently for only about 10 seconds on full heat – the fat should be warm enough to move easily, but not heated sufficiently to make it ‘pool’ or lose its original shape, just enough to make it easier to blend with the sugars. Use a mixer to blend them together first.
- Add the fats to the sugars and cream using a mixer to achieve a soft dropping consistency.
*The very large mixing bowl is needed at this stage to accommodate all of the final mixture.
D: Preparing the oven and baking tin
You will need to warm the oven, so put it on to about 150ºC about now, so that when you have finished mixing and pouring into the tin, it will be ready.
You can simply grease and flour the tin, but I prefer to use baking paper as it is less messy and it protects the cake whilst cooking. Whatever tin you are using you will need to cut paper to fit over the base and around the sides, plus another piece to go over the top of the cake in the first part of the cooking time. Get these ready now.
E: Bringing it all together
The FINAL bit! You will need the VERY large mixing bowl for the whole mixture, as well as a sturdy wooden spoon and a spatula to scrape down the sides.
- Into the creamed fats and sugars add about ¼ of the egg and milk mix. Use the mixer to beat into the creamed mixture, taking care not to curdle the mixture.
- Remove the mixer to one side and add about ¼ of the dry ingredients, folding them in with a large metal spoon.
- Repeat steps 1 & 2 until you have combined all of the creamed and dry ingredients. This should smell good by now and still have a light and fairly fluffy texture.
- Add the steeped fruit in a similar pattern – ¼ at a time – stirring with a sturdy wooden spoon, until the whole mixture is ready. This is the point at which Love and Good wishes are added – each family member gets a stir and a wish.
- Spoon out into the baking tin filling it up to about 1cm of the top of the tin.
- Place baking paper cut to size over the mixture and bake in the heated oven at 150º for 2 ½ hours.
- Remove from the oven and check with a metal skewer to ensure cake is baking through evenly. A clean skewer indicates the cake is ready, so at this stage it should be firm on top but not completely clean in the centre.
- Remove the paper for the last ½ to ¾ hour of cooking, return the cake to the oven and check after 20 minutes, to ensure the top does not get burned. If the top does begin to look a little darker than the rest of the cake, replace the paper, tucking it carefully in at the edges.
- Remove from the oven when the skewer test results in a clean knife. Leave in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a cake rack to cool thoroughly. Leave the baking paper on the base if possible.
- When cool, remove the baking paper and wrap in foil before placing in an airtight container for up to six weeks – remove once a week to inject or pour a wee dram of whisky, Drambuie or brandy over the top of the cake. My mother-in-law was a nurse and used a syringe to inject the alcohol into various parts of the cake!
- About 2 or 3 days before Christmas, roll out some white marzipan to cover the cake with, having first coated it with warmed apricot jam to ensure the marzipan sticks to the cake easily. Ice with royal icing, decorating in your own style.
- Have a large drink and congratulate yourself!
Look out fort he recipe for Boozy Mincemeat and my perfect short-crust pastry soon 🙂