This year I have actually got my act together and made my Christmas cake well in advance of Christmas. I am trying to be very diligent and feed the cake weekly with a local alcohol called Vin de Noix (Walnut Wine) so that the cake is beautifully moist when I eventually cut into it on Christmas Day.
We in fact make the Vin de Noix each year in mid-June using a combination of green walnuts, eau de vie, red wine, sugar, orange and spices. The resulting drink is quite delicious and smells like Christmas pudding. I used it last year to soak the fruit in for my Christmas cake and then used it to feed the cake in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The resultant taste was superb. However, I appreciate that Vin de Noix is not something that everyone can readily lay their hands on, so I would advise you to use whatever you have to hand for example Sherry, Madeira, Brandy or Whisky.
I have in fact made two Christmas cakes this year, one for my grandmother and one for me. The cakes are not the same as I used what I could find in the store cupboards of each house, so, as an example my grandmother’s cake was made using white sugar which meant her cake was a golden brown colour after cooking. By contrast I used dark brown sugar in my cake and so I have a cake that is a deep brown colour as you would expect of a rich fruit cake. The one thing I ensured about both cakes was they were packed full of dried fruit, essential for any Christmas cake.
So for now, both the cakes are wrapped up tightly in tin foil and have been stored away in some old air-tight sweet tins, keeping them fresh between their weekly feeds. They will remain this way until they are iced in the week before Christmas. (See icing the Christmas cake).
My Christmas Cake
- 1 wine glass Vin de Noix (or ½ wine glass Brandy, Madeira, Sherry or Whisky)
- 18oz dried mixed fruit
- 6oz raisins
- 6oz currants
- 6oz sultanas
- 1½oz mixed peel
- 4oz glacé cherries
- 4½oz plain flour
- 4½oz self-raising flour
- 1tsp salt
- 2tsp mixed spice
- 2tsp cinnamon
- 6oz butter (or hard margarine)
- 6oz dark brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 heaped tbsp black treacle
- zest 1 orange
- 2oz hazelnuts
- 2oz chopped walnuts
1. Place the dried fruit, raisins, sultanas, currants, glacé cherries, mixed peel and Vin de Noix in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave for as long as possible (12hrs minimum, the longer you leave it the better the cake will be).
2. When your fruit is ready make your cake batter. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl, then slowly add the eggs being careful that they don’t curdle (if in doubt add a little flour at this stage to stabilise your mixture).
4. Add the flour, spices, salt, zest and treacle to the mix and combine using a large metal spoon.
5. Finally add the nuts and the fruit to the batter and stir well making sure that the fruit is evenly distributed through the batter.
6. Line a 20cm loose bottomed deep cake tin with baking paper. Do this by:
- Cutting out 4 circles the size of the tin, 2 of these will be for the bottom and the other two will be for the top of the cake. Cut a 1” cross in the centre of the two circles to be used for the top of the cake.
- Cut a long piece of baking paper big enough to go around the outside of the tin, fold it in half lengthways. On one edge make a crease (roughly an 1”) then make cuts every inch up to the crease (this will allow the paper to fit far better into the tin).
- Place the long piece of baking paper in the tin first, so that the cuts in the paper lie smoothly on the bottom of the tin. Fill the cake tin with the batter, push it down gently, then place the two circles of the baking paper with the cross over the batter.
- Finally, take a large piece of brown parcel paper, fold it in half lengthways and wrap it around the outside of the tin, tying it in place with a piece of string.
7. Place the cake in the oven and cook at 150C fan for 3 -3 ½ hours (or until a skewer comes out clean).
8. Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely, before feeding with 1tbsp of Vin de Noix, then wrap tightly in tin foil and place in an airtight container.
9. Continue to feed the cake once a week with 1 tbsp of Vin de Noix up until it is iced.