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Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Cake

Not being "home" for Christmas I seem to be looking all around me for signs of the familiar a glimpse of home. A song, a smell, a temperature, a cookie! But as of yet I am finding precious little that is familiar this Christmas.
One of the things that I love to do each Christmas is bake heaps of cookies. I have about 13 different varieties that I save for Christmas each year. Every gathering includes plates of cookies! Yes, every American knows this tradition and has probably been part of a Christmas cookie exchange at one point in time. New Zealanders are not as fond of sweets as Americans are. They prefer a savory appetizer.
But they are proud of their "Christmas Cakes". For about a month people have been telling me about how they have had their fruit "soaking" (in brandy) for their Christmas Cake. I have told them how fruit cake is a bit of a joke in America. You get mad at someone and you throw the fruit cake at them; if you receive fruit cake as a gift you quickly re gift said fruit cake! New Zealanders are astonished at this. They take their Christmas Cake very seriously. I had my first taste of Christmas Cake this past week. I'm not really into dried fruit that's been soaking in anything for a months. It's not my thing. I'll stick to plates of Christmas cookies! But if you are wanting to try some for yourself I've put a recipe below so that you can get a head start for next year!

No worries - Kris


450g currants
180g raisins
180g sultanas
75g finely chopped mixed peel
? cup brandy (notice the amount is not given. I guess the more the merrier!)
225g butter, softened
225g soft brown sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
225g plain flour
? tsp salt
? tsp grated nutmeg (more spice to mask the flavor)
? tsp mixed spice
75g chopped, blanched almonds
1 tbsp treacle
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
35g whole blanched almonds, to decorate

1. The day (or month) before baking, place dried fruit, mixed peel and brandy in large bowl. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap. Leave for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Line a 20cm round cake tin or 18cm square tin with brown paper and a lining of nonstick baking paper.

2. Next day, heat oven to 140?C (120?C fan bake). Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

3. Sift flour, salt and spices together and gently fold into beaten mixture. Fold in brandy-soaked fruit, chopped almonds, treacle and orange zest. Spoon the mixture into prepared cake tin, spreading it evenly and smoothing the surface with the back of a spoon.

4. Decorate surface with whole almonds. Bake for 3 to 3? hours or
until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If necessary, cover loosely with foil part-way through cooking to prevent over-browning. Cool in cake tin for 1 hour, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

* Traditional Christmas fruit cakes are best made well in advance ? at the end of October or beginning of November ? so the flavours can mature.

* ?Feed? the cake with brandy about once a week by making holes all over the cake with a skewer, then spooning over brandy to soak through the holes and permeate the cake with flavour.

* To store, wrap the cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper, then wrap it again in foil or place in an airtight cake tin. Don?t wrap in plastic wrap or the cake will sweat and deteriorate.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a way to drink more brandy without having to admit how much brandy you are drinking.