They do say the longer you leave it between making and eating a Christmas Cake, the more moist the cake becomes.
I have never managed to be so ahead of schedule that I make it many, many weeks or months before the big day, but I do always ensure that it is made before my birthday, which, as I used to tell anyone that would listen when I was young, is a month before God.
To be honest, I still drag that gag out every now and again as it makes me laugh, but funnily enough, I tend to get blank looks back. Apart from the wee boys who do still titter at it. This is probably because I have overused it on the majority of people. Very much like the only other joke I remember.
What, you’d like to hear it? Oh, ok.
Ahem *clears throat*
What did Batman say to Robin before they got in the car?
Get in the car Robin
You see, even now as I write it, I cannot help but smile.
I was once touring around Northern Italy with a wonderful company called The People Show. Having to spend many hours on the bus, and being the youngest there, it took me a while to speak up, but I eventually decided to tell a joke. Unfortunately, I forgot the punchline, which took me at least 24 hours to remember. It gave the gang something to gently and lovingly tease me about, and made me realise that I will never be a stand up, joke telling, comedienne.
But what has this to do with Christmas cake, I hear you cry. Absolutely nothing, so let’s crack on.
Now this is the thing. I follow Nigella’s recipe pretty closely, as I don’t like the taste of candid peel, and prefer pecan nuts to almonds etc. But what I have realised with Christmas cake is that you need three bowls and a couple of extra bits, and you’re done. What you put in them is totally up to you.
In my dry stuff bowl I have 300g plain flour, ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger – more cinnamon than the rest, but so that they make up around 3 teaspoons and 150g ground almonds.
In my fruity bowl I have 700g raisins and 300g currants – but you could have whatever combination of dried fruit you like as long as it’s soaked in 400ml of whiskey, bourbon, brandy, apple juice or whatever, put in a pan, brought to the boil, covered, and left overnight to plump up the fruit. Actually, we ended up leaving it about 3 days as we just kept running out of time but hey, all’s well that’s pickled in liquor.
In my wet bowl I have 300g butter, 175g soft dark brown sugar, 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons black treacle and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs one by one, then the treacle and extract.
My ‘other stuff’ consists of a tub of glace cherries, and a packet of pecan nuts. The nuts I chop a little, the cherries I leave alone as I remember, when young, the pure delight of getting a slice of Christmas cake which had a whole cherry inside. Decadence personified.
Then put a dollop of each section into the bowl and stir until it’s all mixed in together. Put into a prepared tin and bake on a low heat – gas mark 2 – for around 3 – 31/4 hours.
Now this is a great trick. Once it comes out of the oven, wrap it, tin and all, in a couple of layers of greaseproof paper until it is cold. This keeps the top of the cake moist (great word). You may, if you wish, just brush a couple more tablespoons of your chosen liquid over the top before placing the cake in it’s shroud. This too, will help maintain moisture.
Once cool, wrap in a couple of layers of greaseproof paper, followed by a couple of layers of tin foil, and place in an airtight container, in a darkened place, until Christmas eve – ooooh, I just got a little shiver of excitement there.
Just one last thing. Some people ‘feed’ their cake weekly by piercing it with a toothpick or relevant utensil, and pouring in a lid full of liquor. However, I did this last year and felt it was just a little too moist and boozy for my liking, so am skipping that section this year. Obviously, I will show and share when the moment comes.
Until then, pour yourself a sherry and relax.