It seems a ludicrous notion that Australians everywhere insist on cooking the traditional treats that herald in Christmas and the Festive Season. Invariably however, we seem to get a weekend or day just before the big event that allows “us cooks” to have our ovens on full bore for the day, and cook those things that take hours to bake, without melting into our kitchen floors never to be seen again.
For me it was this week as the temperatures dropped to bearable degrees and the opportunity presented itself to finally bake the annual Christmas Cake.
I use a reasonably old recipe by Maureen Simpson for my cake. Maureen calls her recipe “Rich Fruit Cake” and she first published it in the Australian House and Garden magazine in 1989 (where my torn recipe comes from). The recipe appears again with some slight adjustments in her now famous cookbook Australian Cuisine (1990). It makes an enormous cake which is ideal for large Christmas get-togethers. In our house it lasts until approx the 28th December as it is a fav of the food techy and lumps of it also disappear to Nannie and Grandpa to take home to accompany their cuppa whilst watching the Queens speech and the Melbourne Cricket test.
I have been making this cake for Christmas since 1989 and have also used it during my cake decorating days for Weddings. It is dense and flavoursome and cuts particularly well. I start my recipe months before Christmas (sometime in September) by soaking the dried fruit in a mixture of Rum and Brandy. I also omit the glace cherries as I just don’t like them! Instead I bump up the weight of the other fruit to match. So thank you Maureen for your wonderful recipe….it will remain a staple on my Christmas Cooking as long as we always get that day that is cooler to cook!
Here’s the recipe (its a big one!):
250g each dried apricots, glace pineapple, dates and pitted prunes all chopped
125g glace cherries chopped
125g mixed peel
½ cup overproof rum
½ cup brandy
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup brown sugar
10 medium eggs
4 cups plain flour
1 level tsp bicarb soda
1 level tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp nutmeg
½ cup ground almonds
125 g blanched almonds chopped
2-3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier, Cointreau or brandy
Extra almonds or pecans for decorating the cake top.
Prepare cake tins:
1 x 25 cm round tin OR 2 x 20cm round tin
I use a square tin that measures 25 x 25 cm.
Line the tin(s) with two layers of brown paper then an inner layer of baking paper. This is to allow for a longer baking time without burning the sides of the cake. Make sure the paper comes approx. 5 cms up beyond the edge of the tin to provide protection to the top of the cake when baked.
Put currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, glace pineapple, dates, prunes, cherries and peel into a large bowl. Pour over the rum and brandy. Cover and let stand at least overnight or for several weeks in a cool place.
Cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add 8 of the eggs one at a time and beating after each egg.
Sift flour, bicarb soda and spices together, then add to the butter mixture with the ground almonds and fold through evenly. Add the fruit (you may need to use a larger bowl) and chopped almonds. Mix all together and then add the last 2 eggs.
Put the mixture into the prepared tins and spread evenly. Bake in a slow oven (150c) for approx. 4- 4½ hours for large tins and 3 hours for smaller tins. However I start testing the cakes at 2 ½ hours as ovens can vary.
Once cooked, leave cake in the tin. Sprinkle the top with desired alcohol/liquor. Fold over any edges of paper over top of cake and add more baking paper to top if required. Wrap entire cake in several layers of newspaper so that the cake cools slowly and retains its moisture.
Try to leave the cake for at least two weeks before cutting. When ready, remove all newspaper, take cake out of tin and remove baking and brown papers and place on a serving plate.