Just want to have a little rant at Blogger before I start the recipe. Thinking I'd save myself some time in a very busy day, I did this post last night and set it to go live at 10am this morning. I wanted to edit something this morning and somehow the whole post got wiped out and Blogger's autosave then immediately saved the post as empty, much to my anguish! Ten minutes later after googling the problem I find this has happened to so many people. Isn't it about time this was sorted Blogger, it's just devastating to have to try to retrieve work you thought you'd already finished?
Hmmmm, sorry about that, where was I, oh yes, my favourite Xmas cake recipe. I make this cake every year, because it's SO easy and it's suitable for vegetarians and even vegans. I usually make the vegan version, as I do a swap with my vegan friend Kate - her Xmas pudding for my Xmas cake, but you can add the eggs if you like a lighter cake. It doesn't matter if there's an ingredient you don't have (as long as it's not the flour, sugar or margarine) this cake can cope without it, believe me I'm the mistress of make-do!
1.5 lbs sifted plain flour (white or wholemeal or a combination)
3 teaspoons baking powder (vegan version) OR 1 teaspoon (with eggs)
1.5 lbs margarine (gently heated in a saucepan until liquid)
1.25 lbs demerara OR muscovado sugar
0.25 lb molasses
2 lbs mixed dried fruit (currants, raisins, sultanas, figs, dates, apricots, pineapple, blueberries, you can really get creative here and use the ones you love). If you can remember soak the fruits overnight in 3 tablespoons of brandy or if you prefer orange juice. This will make them plump and sumptuous and you can use any liquid left over to mix the cake.
4 free range eggs (optional)
0.25 lbs candied peel (I buy whole candied fruits from Alligator, our local wholefood shop)
0.25 lb broken walnuts
handful of sunflower seeds
2in stem of angelica, sliced (if you can get it)
1 large OR 2 smallish cooking apples, grated with peel
zest of 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg and mixed spice
2 teaspoons mace
large piece of grated ginger OR 2 teaspoons ground ginger OR equivalent amount of candied ginger along with some of the syrup
large slug of brandy OR orange juice to mix ingredients into a sticky consistency
Now I told you it was easy. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 1. 275F (140C). then just put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together well. You'll have enough mixture to fill one 8inch tin and a smaller 5inch tin. You can either eat the smaller one straight away or wow your friends with it when they drop by after Xmas, by which time it'll be very well fed!
Grease and line the tins with greaseproof paper and fill with the mixture. Cut circles of greaseproof paper to go on top of the mixture, with a ten pence sized hole in the centre to let the steam out. Then bake on lowest shelf of oven for approximately 4.5 hours, could take a tad longer, but don't open the door for 4 hours.
Cool the cake for half an hour, then put it on a wire wrack until cold. By this time you may like to pour yourself a glass of brandy while you stand back and admire your glorious cake. Before you store it away, feed it by skewering many times on the base and dribbling brandy into the holes. Then wrap it in a couple of layers of greaseproof paper, finishing with a layer of foil. Feed the cake similarly every week until Xmas.
I don't ice my cakes, it pleases the designer in me more to make pretty patterns with dried fruits and nuts, and it's less messy. To do this warm up some apricot jam in a saucepan adding tiny amounts of water until it's a thick liquid, sieve it to get rid of the pieces of apricot, then brush it lavishly over the top of your cake. You don't need many dried fruits, I usually use sliced figs, pineapple cubes, angelica for its brilliant green, apricots and pecans or walnuts in the centre. When you're satisfied with the pattern, dilute your apricot jam mix even more with a little brandy, then brush it over the whole of the top of the decorated cake. Tie a big red ribbon around it and serve it surrounded by sprigs of holly et voilà... tadaa! Enjoy!
I'm still feeding mine, so no photos yet.