And... Christmas is here!! Even if you don't celebrate Christmas like me, you cannot escape its infectious spirit of joy and celebration that it brings. So close to the New Year, it is just one more reason to celebrate, forget your worries and indulge yourself!
Christmas is a baker's delight. This time of the year is made for the oven. Food blogs are crammed with stories with people rushing against the clock to do their holiday baking, buying their gifts, catching up with friends and family and then there's not only the mammoth Christmas Feast but the breakfast the morning after!!!
Life's a bit simpler out here. Since, we don't celebrate Christmas, I get into the spirit of things by baking a Christmas Fruit Cake. It's traditional, Christmassy and reason enough to surround myself with family and close friends.
The recipe I turn to is Nigella's Chocolate Fruit Cake. Nigella and her recipes are no brand ambassador for Weight Watchers and that's what makes them perfect for Christmas. And her recipes not only deliver as promised but are almost, always crowd-pleasers!!
The recipe cannot get simpler even if you tried. This is not one of those recipes where you should have steeped your dried fruits in alcohol weeks or months in advance. Nigella cheats her way by simmering the dried fruits in an alcohol mix over heat, for ten minutes. This may not meet the approval of the purists but it definitely meets the approval of the harried, practical and pragmatic cook.
Talking about how simple this cake is, it does not even use a hand-held mixer. You simply mix everything with a wooden spoon. It really can't get easier than that!!
The cake hardly takes much time to put together but it does have a fairly lengthy baking time. But, that's a good thing because by the time it is baked, your whole house is filled with the fragrance of Christmas. If for some reason you are not in the mood of things, this will definitely get you in the mood.
The cake is everything a Christmas cake should be. It is dark, dense, moist, slightly sticky and tastes of Christmas. Its all in there - the alcohol, the spice, the dried fruits, the oranges, all the traditional flavours you associate with Christmas. If the chocolate in her title makes you wary, then worry not, because it is hardly discernible but just adds to the darkness and depth of this cake. A small slice goes a long way so this cake feeds a lot of people.
I cannot recommend this cake enough. With hardly any effort, you will have a Christmas cake that will become a family favourite and an integral part of your Christmas memories.
Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas. May the magic of Christmas brighten every part of your lives with love, laughter and happiness!!
Christmas Fruit Cakes
Serves 12-15 people.
- 2 cups of mixed dry fruit - raisins, currant and dried cranberries (the original recipe uses dried prunes instead of cranberries)
- 175 gms unsalted butter, softened
- 175 gms demerara sugar
- 175 mls honey
- 125 mls coffee liqueur
- 2 oranges, zested and juiced
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder (you can used mixed spice)
- 2 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 150 gms, plain flour
- 75 gms ground almonds/almond meal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Pre-heat the oven to 150 deg C.
- Line the sides and bottom of an 8 x 3 1/2-inch deep, round loose-bottomed cake tin. When lining the sides of the tin, cut the material into strips that are twice as high as the tin itself; the height of the strips protects the cake from catching on the outside of the cake tin.
- Place the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, coffee liqueur, orange zest and juice, cinnamon and cocoa into a large wide saucepan. Heat the mixture until it reaches a gentle boil, stirring the mixture as the butter melts. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, the mixture will have cooled a little. Add the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda, and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients have combined.
- Carefully pour the fruitcake mixture into the lined cake tin. Transfer the cake tin to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the top of the cake is firm but will has a shiny and sticky look. At this point, if you insert a sharp knife into the middle of the cake, a few crumbs will stick to the knife. Mine took 1 1/2 hours to bake.
- Place the cake on a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled, remove it from the tin.
- To decorate, place a few chocolate balls in the centre of the cake. Then sprinkle some gold/silver mini-balls over the whole cake and with other edible decorations you can lay your hands on.
- Tip : You can make this cake well in advance and then every day or every day other..brush the cake with the alcohol you have used in the Cake. First, make holes on the top of the cake and then brush the surface liberally with alcohol. This will make the cake beautifully moist.