I know, I know, it’s October! But you can never be too organised. I always start my Christmas prep in the first few days of October, it just feels right. Summer vacations are over, children are back at school and the Autumn term has begun. I’ve always been the sort of person that would rather do a little bit of Christmas prep a week into October, than race around with the crowds in December. Plus, I save a fortune.
So, this is the week to start thinking about your Christmas pudding or cake, if you’re making one. If nobody in your household likes Christmas pudding (and it’s quite an acquired taste) just don’t bother. Seriously, there’s nothing worse than starting to make something in October for your family to enjoy in December and them not even enjoying it! Just make a chocolate cake and decorate it with Christmas icing.
This is my favourite Christmas cake recipe because it is also, guaranteed, hands down, the easiest. You don’t need a food processor, Kitchen Aid or pressure cooker. Just an 8 inch round cake tin and a large sauce pan! Follow the instructions below:
• 175g butter , chopped
• 200g dark muscovado sugar
• 750g luxury mixed dried fruit (one that includes mixed peel and glacé cherries)
• finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
• finely grated zest of 1 lemon
• 100ml/3½ fl oz cherry brandy or brandy plus 4tbsp more
• 85g macadamia nut
• 3 large egg , lightly beaten
• 85g ground almond
• 200g plain flour
• ½ tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp ground mixed spice
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• ¼ tsp ground allspice
1. Put the butter, sugar, fruit, zests, juice and 100ml brandy in a large pan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the butter has melted. Reduce the heat and heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for half an hour.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150C/gas 2/ fan 130C and line a 8 inch round cake tin with baking parchment. Toast the nuts in a dry frying pan, tossing them until evenly browned, or in the oven for 8-10 minutes – watch them as they burn easily. When they are cool, chop roughly. Stir the eggs, nuts and ground almonds into the fruit mixture and mix. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into the pan. Stirring them in gently, until there are no traces of flour left.
4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth it down.
5. Bake for 45 minutes, then turn down the heat to 140C/gas 1/ fan120C and cook for another hour (about a further 1¾ hours if you have a gas oven) until the cake is dark golden in appearance and firm to the touch. Cover the top of the cake with foil if it starts to darken too much. To check the cake is done, insert a fine skewer into the centre – if it comes out clean, then it’s done!
6. Make holes all over the warm cake with a fine skewer and spoon the extra 4tbsp brandy over the holes until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. When it’s cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap first in baking parchment and then in foil. This cake will keep in a cupboard for up to three months or you can freeze it for six months.