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.
CLASSIC CHRISTMAS CAKE
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.