It's already October! Time to start thinking about Xmas cakes...
This is my first 'blog' and I'm so nervous...I want to include a spread-sheet in my post, but I haven't got a clue how to do that! Here we go!
|Copyu's Xmas Cake Estimator|
|Ingredients||15cm round 6" round||17cm round 15cm square||22cm round 19cm square||25cm round 23cm square||28cm round||30cm round 28cm square|
|Marmalade||1 Tblsp||1½ Tblsp||2 Tblsp||3 Tblsp||4 Tblsp||5 Tblsp|
|Brandy (Rum OK, too)||50ml/1.7floz||65ml||100ml||150ml||200ml||250ml|
|Options: replace some of the raisins with chopped dates, apricots, dried cranberries or blueberries, fruits preserved in rum, etc. Angelica can replace some of the cherries, if you like the taste|
|Plain flour (APF)||120g/4oz||180g||240g||360g||480g||600g|
|Mixed spice||½ teasp||¾ teasp||1 teasp||1½ teasp||2 teasp||2½ teasp|
|Orange/lemon zest||1 teasp||1½ teasp||2 teasp||2 teasp||1 Tblsp||1 Tblsp|
|Bake time (hours)||02:30||2: 30 to 3:30||3 to 3:30||4 hours||5 to 5:30||6 to 6:30|
|*NB: there are many types of 'brown sugar', so feel free to vary up/down by 20-25% according to taste|
Oh, my gosh! It worked!
Above is the basic formula that I've used for many years...TOO many years! If you're interested in 'rich fruit cakes', [aka "wedding cakes" and "Xmas cakes" in the British Commonwealth] then this is must-read for you. If you've never made one of these rich, boozy, dense cakes before, then have a go and relax...there's nothing here to intimidate anyone over the age of 10. Everything here is very flexible, unlike the 'persnicketiness' of a lot of bread-baking and pastry-making, where everything has to be 'just-so'. Don't have an ingredient? Then substitute, within reason. Can't buy that stuff where you live? Then make your own, right at home! Don't have time today? Then do the next bit tomorrow! It's October, now, so it's not too early to be planning one or more of these scrummy items. Xmas cakes are traditionally made a month or two before eating, anyway...Once baked and cooled, they were usually coated with a thick icing and stored in air-tight 'cake tins' for a month or two. [In the 21st century, that means wrapped in aluminium foil and kept in an air-tight plastic container.] The un-iced cakes can also be stored for many weeks. People often pierce the cakes with a skewer and drizzle a little brandy on them once or twice a week before re-wrapping them in their foil 'cocoons'
Last year, I made this 'recipe' at least 6 times, but no two batches were the same. They were all good, but I will go into the gory details of my odd failures, as well, with some comments on what NOT to do. For non-metric bakers, I've estimated the ounce equivalents from the metric weights, but only for the 15cm (six-inch) ROUND cake form. If you want to make this cake in an 8"-9" round form, then you just need to double the ingredients of the 6" recipe. For the others, eg, square forms, you might need a metric tape measure or a calculator, or just look at the beautiful 'ratios', say, of the flour or the sugar and do things 'by feel'. If the sugar is 3 or 4 times higher than the first column, then the other weighed ingredients will be 3 or 4 times higher as well. What could be easier? It's not really difficult at all, with the spread-sheet to help you. Additionally, the cake form sizes are just a 'guide-line', so be flexible and use what you have on hand
Before baking time, your cake pans should be lined with one or two layers of brown paper and then some baking parchment (/wax-paper/silicone paper) that comes about 5cm (2") above the edges of the pans. Your oven should be set to a fairly 'slow' seting...150°C/300°F (or 20°C/50°F lower for fan-forced ovens)
The night before baking, decide on your dried fruit contents and chop coarsely, where necessary. Place into a large glass bowl and add the marmalade and brandy (or rum). Mix thoroughly with a spoon and add another little splash of the booze, if you like; cover with cling-film and refrigerate until it's time to make the batter. An hour or three would be enough, but I like to steep the fruit for a long time—12 hours or more. It's completely up to you, however! I've left my fruits for 24 hours with no damage
At your chosen time, beat the butter, sugar and citrus 'zest' together (with an electric mixer, if you have one) until they're just barely combined; add eggs, one at a time, and mix until just barely combined; then add this butter mixture to the steeped fruits and mix by hand, with a spoon, for a couple of minutes. Add sifted flour and spice to the contents of the bowl and mix again, by hand. Your batter is done
Push spoonsful of the batter right into the bottom edges of the cake-forms and then spread the rest of the batter evenly into the pans. Tap the cake-forms several times on a chopping-board or the counter, to 'settle' the ingredients. (If you're fussy, you can flatten the top of the batter with a wet spatula.) Bake for the times recommended in the spreadsheet. To test for 'done-ness', push a paring/fruit knife right into the centre of the cake to the bottom and remove it, slowly. If the knife is clean, it's done. If it has uncooked batter on it, return it to the oven for 15 minutes longer and test again
To cool the cakes, snip the paper level with the tops of the cakes, invert them onto a cooling rack covered with foil and wrap the whole thing in the foil, leaving the forms in place for about 20-30 minutes before trying to extract the cakes from the forms. This technique is used when you want to ice, or otherwise decorate the cakes...the cooling in foil makes a nice, flat surface to work from. [The 'bottom' of the cake becomes the 'top' that is destined for the decoration.] Otherwise, you can just flip them back over and dust the tops with some decorative icing sugar and add some holly leaves, or whatever you fancy
Notes on ingredients:
'Raisins' means red California raisins, but can be any type you have available. I found 'Jewellery' raisins today, which are a golden colour...'green' raisins are quite cheap here in Japan. 'Sultanas' are just raisins made from seedless grapes and are fairly cheap, flovoursome, lighter in colour and somewhat juicier than other types. You can play with the different amounts of each, as long as you stick 'roughly' to the weights. I would encourage you to replace some of the raisins with other dried fruits and berries
'Citrus Zest' is best prepared fresh, with a micro-plane or another type of cheese grater. For best taste, I make mine with the rind of half an orange and the rind of one whole lemon
'Mixed Peel' is a standard supermarket item in Australia, NZ and the UK. If you can't find it, mix your own from any dried, candied or other preserved citrus peel. It may need chopping, if you buy the whole, dried type
'Mixed Spice' is another British item that may not be popular in some countries...it's a combination of the 'sweet' ground spices that you can find in any grocery—allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, <also mace, cardamom, coriander seed>...a half-teaspoon of each of the first five, shaken together, would make a very nice 'mixed spice' for this recipe. You can google for traditional mixes (and there are dozens!) with very minor variations
"As nutty as a fruit-cake" is a good old English expression. You can add nuts to this recipe as an option, without substitution for other dry ingredients...almonds, whole, blanched or slivered; walnuts; pecans; and cashews would be the top choices. You can add them to the 'boozy fruits' or leave them until making the batter...30g/1oz wouldn't affect anything in this recipe. Chopping is optional, as well...
'Icing' usually means 'marzipan' or 'royal icing'. These make an almost impenetrable barrier to air, preventing the cakes from going moldy. There are various ways to make an icing for a Xmas cake, but these are almost 'canonical' and any recipe you find through google will work. Completely optional, however...
I need to get some 'shut-eye'...next post, I'll give some weird mixtures that I tried last year with commentary...I don't think there are any pics available. They will come after this year's bake.
Best to all,