As well as writing fiction, I love to bake and occasionally do wedding and celebration cakes. I’m working on a wedding cake for someone at the moment, and was talking to a friend about matching the lovely pattern of the lace on the bride’s wedding dress in the piping on the cake and the hand-made sugar flowers. He took a look at the lace and his response was that if I could do that, I must be the Goddess of Cake. I like that! I think I’ll keep it. I’m sure I can live with being referred to as the Goddess of Cake :).
In an effort to live up to that title, read on below for my Christmas cake recipe and a few ideas to decorate it:
Recipe for an 8″ round cake:
1 lb 7 oz mixed fruit
6 oz glace cherries
5 oz mixed, chopped nuts (pecans, brazils, hazelnuts – whatever you like)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons brandy (plus extra to feed the cake)
9 oz plain (all purpose) flour
3 teaspoons mixed spice
2 oz ground almonds
7 oz soft dark brown sugar
7 oz butter
1 1/2 tablespoons black treacle
4 medium eggs
1 3/4 lb marzipan
1 3/4 lb sugar paste (roll out icing)
2 tablespoons apricot glaze (see method for recipe)
Grease and line a deep 8″ round cake tin with baking parchment. Put the cake tin on a baking tray, covered in brown paper, and tie more brown paper around the outside of the cake tin, to prevent the cake from burning.
Put all of the fruit, nuts, lemon juice and brandy in a large bowl and stir to coat the fruit and nuts with the liquid. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave overnight to allow all the flavours to mix (though you can skip this step if you’re pushed for time).
Put the rest of the cake ingredients in another large bowl and mix together slowly. Beat for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth and glossy, and then pour in the fruit and nuts. Combine ingredients together gently until the mixture is even.
Spoon the mix into your cake tin and spread it evenly into the corners. Smooth the surface of the mix and make a small depression in the middle of the cake.
Put the cake in the centre of a pre-heated oven and bake at 140 degrees C (275 degrees F or Gas mark 1) for 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 hours.
Test the cake with a skewer around 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time. If it’s done, it will feel firm to the touch. If the cake isn’t cooked, re-test it every 15 minutes until done.
Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the tin. Spoon a tablespoon or so of brandy over while the cake is hot.
Brandy, brandy and more brandy!
Turn the cake out of the tin once it’s cool and but don’t remove the lining paper as it will keep the cake moist. Turn the cake over, peel back the baking parchment and spoon a tablespoon of brandy over the bottom of the cake, then wrap it in foil and store it upside down to keep the top flat.
The cake will keep for 3 months and I like to keep feeding it with brandy every month to deepen the flavour before I decorate it, though you don’t have to do that, and you can decorate it within a few days of making it if you like.
Put half a jar of smooth apricot jam in a pan with 1 1/2 tablespoons of water and heat it gently until the jam has melted. Boil it rapidly for half a minute and it’s ready to use.
To marzipan an 8″ cake, you only need a couple of tablespoons of apricot glaze but I’ve given you a recipe for more as you can use it as part of your decorating.
For a really quick cake decoration – perfect if you don’t like marzipan and icing – dab a 10″ round cake board with a little apricot glaze to hold the cake in place then place the cake in the centre of the board. Coat the top of the cake with apricot glaze, using a pastry brush, and then use green, yellow and red glace cherries, pecans, hazelnuts or any other nuts you like to create a pattern. Put the different coloured cherries in straight rows, with rows of nuts in between, do circles of fruit then nuts, do diagonal lines – whatever you think looks pretty, then brush the whole topping with apricot glaze again, and fasten a festive ribbon around the side of the cake. Done, in about 20 minutes!
If you’re going to marzipan and ice your cake, brush the whole of the cake with apricot glaze, roll out your marzipan to fit and then place it over the cake and smooth it down the sides of the cake. Trim any excess at the base of the cake. Leave it to set overnight and then you can ice it. Brush the marzipan all over with brandy or cooled boiled water (it must be boiled or the marzipan will ferment), then roll out your sugarpaste and smooth it over the cake, trimming the excess at the base.
There are endless designs you could make, and I couldn’t possibly cover them all in this post, but here’s something simple, Christmassy and pretty to try:
Roll out some sugarpaste until it’s a few millimetres thick, then cut out circles around the size of a pound coin. Put them on some waxed or greaseproof paper to dry over night, until they are set and you can pick them up easily. Make more than you need in case of breakages.
Brush the top of each circle with a little egg white and sprinkle them with caster sugar, then leave to dry for a few hours.
As in the photo, stick the discs overhanging on the edge of your cake with a little royal icing and leave to set.
Put some royal icing in a piping bag with a number 2 piping tube, then squeeze the piping bag gently until you catch the icing on the edge of one of the discs, and pull the icing down until it breaks naturally. Keep doing that around the edge of each disc and you’ll end up with a row of tiny icicles around your cake.
That’s all folks! Wishing you and yours, wherever you are in the world, a happy and peaceful Christmas xx
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