Christmas Is Coming...Time To Bake That Cake!
I am of the opinion, and you may be too, that anyone who says they dislike Christmas cake has simply never had a good one!
Too dry, and you need a gallon of tea to wash it down, too wet or under-cooked, and the stodgy mass resembles the pudding you had for dessert.
Some people dislike the fruit, some the nuts...myself included as I can't abide walnuts...instead I use pecans...problem solved. But the high quantities of dried fruits required means there are no alternatives if you want your cake to be authentic, but still, choosing your proportions of fruits correctly, and choosing good quality, plump fruits, can make a huge difference.
There is something ritualistic and spell binding about the making of the christmas cake, certainly in our house where the task falls to myself and my mother, just as it did to her and my grandmother. It is a joint effort of sorting, cleaning and soaking of fruits, chopping of pecans and cherries, buttering and lining of cake tins and of course....baking not only the cake, but two tiny muffin sized cakes for us to enjoy after our efforts.....the cooks reward!
As we get older and we become ever more health conscious, our appetites seem to decrease as do the size of our Christmas cakes. Last years cake was much shallower and this year I believe I will be on the hunt for a cake tin that is no bigger than 7 inches.....making our cake in a loaf shape doesn't have quite the same appeal so the tin I buy must be round.
For the first time in our living memory, our family Christmas cake, made using a recipe handed down through the generations, will most likely be served without any icing, marzipan or buttercream of any sort.......the last time this happened was probably during rationing in world war II....and why are we leaving it bare? well, as none of us are very fond of royal icing or that paste you can roll out, I tend to ice the cake with a butter icing naughtily spiked with a little Baileys Irish cream liqueur....needless to say butter icing does not last very long and one feels obliged to scoff the cake before the icing becomes inedible....our ageing digestions simply cannot cope with such richness day after day and leaving our cake naked means we can continue to enjoy it well into January!
As we are now well into the first week in November it is time to start planning the baking of your own Christmas cake. The optimum time to bake a fruit cake and ensure it is well matured by Christmas is within the next week or two, anytime after the 20th of November and you are dicing with danger!
For my 'Mary Poppins' as I like to call it, Christmas cake....as in a cake that is practically perfect in every way, we will need pull our socks up and get the ball rolling.....you can find my Christmas Cake recipe HERE!
If you really can't get over your hatred of Christmas cake then never fear, over the next few weeks I will come up with some delightful alternatives that can make your post Christmas lunch cup of tea so divine you won't feel you are missing out.