Christmas Cake

With its rich fruit and the plentiful addition of alcohol, the Christmas cake has an important place at the table in any traditional Irish Christmas.

Ingredients


  • 12 oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 6 oz glaze mixed fruits (including green figs, melon, pineapple, orange and red pear)
  • 4 oz natural cherries (washed, dried, chopped and tossed in a tablespoon of flour)
  • 4 oz sweet dried cranberries
  • 3 oz dried blueberries
  • 3 oz currants
  • 10 oz australian sultanas,
  • 10 oz raisins (including jumbo, large lexia, californian and sun bleached)
  • 2 oz apricots
  • 4 oz macadamia
  • rind and juice of 3 limes
  • 4 fluid oz cointreau
  • 10 oz muscovado unrefined sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 10 oz butter
  • tools needed:
  • 9” square tin or 10” round tin
  • baking parchment
  • brown paper
  • string

Method

  1. The day before making the cake:
  2. • Place all the dried fruit (except the cherries) lime zest, and peel into a bowl, add the cointreau, and stir to mix well. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to soak for minimum of twelve hours and up to 24 hours.
  3. • Prepare your tin as follows:
  4. To line a square tin:
  5. • Put the tin in the centre of the baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
  6. • Measure the length and width and double the depth the paper should extend 1-2” higher than tin.
  7. • Make four lines from the papers edge up to the corner, and cut along the lines.
  8. • Grease the tin and place the paper inside, folding and over lapping the corners to fit.
  9. • Using the tin as a guide, and using a pencil, mark out the size of the base.
  10. • Cut out two double bases and place inside the tin and grease each one as you put it in.
  11. To line a round tin:
  12. • Cut a strip of baking parchment or greaseproof paper longer and higher than the outside of the tin.
  13. • Fold it in half and fold back about an inch along its length.
  14. • Using a pair of scissors, snip the paper up to the fold every ½”.
  15. • Grease the tin and press the paper onto the sides.
  16. • Using the tin as a guide, and using a pencil, mark out the size of the base.
  17. • Cut out two double bases and place inside the tin and grease each one as you put it in.
  18. TO MAKE THE CAKE
  19. Sieve the flour and spices into a large bowl.
  20. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  21. Break the eggs into a small bowl and lightly beat with a fork.
  22. Add a tablespoon of the beaten eggs at a time to the creamed sugar and butter.
  23. Beat well after each addition. If the mixture looks as if it might be starting to curdle add in a little of the measured flour and spice mix.
  24. When all the eggs have been added, fold in the flour and spices using a metal spoon.
  25. Very gently stir the soaked fruits, the cherries and the nuts.
  26. Using a metal spoon carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.
  27. Use the back of a wet spoon to even off the mixture and make a slight indentation in the centre to ensure that the surface is even when cooked.
  28. Cover the outside of the tin with a double band of brown paper and tie with string. Once the cake mixture is in the tin, the top can be covered with a clean tea towel and it can be left until the next day before cooking.
  29. Put a double layer of baking parchment on top of the cake and put into the preheated oven.
  30. See temperatures and cooking times below.
  31. COOKING TIPS FOR MAKING CHRISTMAS CAKES
  32. • Always buy good quality dried fruit.
  33. • Don’t use dried fruit that you find at the back of a cupboard. It will have dried up more since the last time that it was used.
  34. • Never use self raising flour when baking fruit cakes as it will cause your cake to crack.
  35. • Always use the size tin given in the recipe.
  36. • Don’t use flour that is at the back of your cupboard, it will probably be damp, so buy a fresh one.
  37. ALL INGREDIENTS MUST BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE AND BUTTER MUST BE SLIGHTLY SOFT. IF THE BUTTER ISN’T SOFT, IT WON’T CREAM INTO THE SUGAR SATISFACTIORLY.
  38. EGGS WILL CURDLE IF THEY ARE TAKEN STRAIGHT FROM THE FRIDGE AND USED IMMEDIATELY TO ADD TO THE CREAMED BUTTER AND FLOUR.
  39. • If you don’t want to add alcohol to your cake, you can use fruit juice. I find a mixture of orange and apple the best.
  40. • Take time to line the tins and when the mixture is in the tin, put brown paper around it. As fruit cakes take a long time to cook, it is very important that the edges and the bottom don’t cook before the centre of the cake. It this happens, the outside of the cake will be hard and tasteless.
  41. • Don’t open the oven door until the cake is cooked! Opening the door allows cold air into the oven and your cake will sink!
  42. • Also, while your cake is cooling, keep it away from drafts.
  43. OVEN TEMPERATURE AND APPROXIMATE COOKING TIMES:
  44. ELECTRIC OVEN
  45. Bake at 170°C for 1 ½ hours then reduce the heat to 150°C for remaining 2 hours.
  46. GAS OVEN
  47. Bake at gas mark 3 for 1 ½ hours then reduce the heat to gas mark 2 for remaining 2 hours.
  48. FAN OVEN
  49. This is a guideline only as it is best to refer to the manufacturers instructions. Some manufacturers suggest that Christmas Cakes should be placed in a cold oven, while other manufacturers say that the oven should be preheated.
  50. So these are the suggested temperatures. Bake at 150°C for 1 ½ hours then reduce the heat to 130°C for the remaining 2 hours. Again check the cooking instructions that you got with your oven.

Notes:

As all oven temperatures vary, it is important to check that the cake is cooked after the cooking time is up. This is done by the following: • See if the cake has shrunk away from the sides of the tin. • Press firmly on top of the cake and if no indentations are left remove it from the oven. • Gently put a thin metal skewer into the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. • When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and leave the cake to cool completely in the tin. How to store cake: • Once the cake is cold, leave the lining paper on and cover the cake with extra baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then wrap tinfoil over it. Never wrap fruit cakes directly in tinfoil as the foil interacts with the fruit. • Store for 6 to 8 weeks • Every week, until the cake is iced, “feed” it by taking a skewer and making holes over its surface and pour about a tablespoon of whatever alcohol that was used in baking the cake. This helps to keep it moist and adds to the flavour.





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