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Christmas Cake Recipes

Kanika Goswami Dec 18, 2018
Not many know that the Christmas cake started out as porridge. Over time it ingrained the finest of ingredients and what was a luxury, became the bane of Christmas celebrations.
A hundred and fifty years ago, pudding was born out of the marriage of two customs in Victorian England. A couple of centuries ago, it all started with a sort of porridge which was supposed to be eaten after the day of fasting on Christmas Eve (or Vigil, as it was then called).
To make it a richer experience on the occasion, dried fruits, spices and honey were put in after some time and these made it so stiff that the revelers would tie it in a cloth and dunk it into boiling water, starting the tradition of a boiled Christmas pudding with spices, nuts, fruits and whatnot.
By the sixteenth century, the oatmeal of the porridge was replaced by wheat flour, and butter and eggs were added to hold it together. However, baking was still a luxury since only BIG houses had ovens.
These household would bake rich fruitcakes for Easter and top them with almond paste (what we call marzipan), so they started baking a similar one for Christmas, but with spices and the dried fruits of the season....supposed to represent the gifts of the kings from the East.
However, it was not exactly a Christmas cake but a Twelfth Night cake (the fifth of January, actually supposed to represent the end of Christmas festivities). These cakes soon became the flavor of the season.
The bakers and confectioners usually had leftover figurines, so they started baking rich fruitcakes with snowy scenes for decoration...and thus the Christmas Cake was born.
However, the people of Britain would still send boiled Christmas puddings for family members living in distant colonies, which could take weeks or even months to reach, along with a hamper of gifts, very often chunks of cheese and apple pie (that were unavailable in uncivilized colonies).
The tide turned when a German immigrant started baking Christmas Cakes in America with locally grown fruits and the colonizers started shipping these back to relatives in England....and today, this cake is more popular than the traditional European Christmas cake.

Making the Christmas Cake

Traditionally, this cake is baked about a month in advance, and some families enjoy this feeling when the house is full of these divine smells, spices, cinnamon, dried fruits and alcohol....it's time for Christmas again. Here is a simple yet fragrant and tasty recipe for the Christmas cake.
To begin with, soak these fruits a few weeks in advance, to make the fruits plumper and flavored with alcohol.
♦ 500 g sultanas
♦ 200 g raisins
♦ 200 g glacé cherries, halved
♦ 110 currants
♦ 110 cut mixed peel
♦ 110 g roughly chopped dried figs, dried apricots, dried pitted prunes
♦ 1 small orange, grated zest and juice
♦ 150 ml brandy
Soak the fruits in the brandy, and over the next few weeks, mix with a wooden spatula everyday, turning around to make sure every piece gets well soaked in the brandy.
For the cake:
♦ 255 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
♦ 200 g dark muscovado sugar
♦ 5 medium eggs
♦ 300 g plain flour
♦ 200 g macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
Line the base of a 9-inch cake tin with glazed paper and pre-heat at 150 degrees C. Beat together the butter (at room temperature) and sugar till the mix is pale and fluffy, then add flour in small quantities, just stirring it in, taking care not to BEAT it in. Make sure every stirring engulfs air into the mixture.
Add the fruit mixture and the nuts, again, fold it in gently. Then spread out the mixture onto the bake tin, leveling with a spatula or large spoon. Put the tin into the oven and bake for about 3 hours at low heat, taking acre not to brown it too much.
Once the cake is done, take it out and cool. The next day, make a few holes with a skewer and over the next few weeks (till Christmas), feed it with a bit of alcohol - sherry or brandy every 5 days.
For decorating it, you can slap down a sheet of marzipan (use about 500 grams of marzipan) and add glazed cherries, maybe marzipan figurines or silver balls, even jam, depending on what you have in mind.
Sieving on icing sugar to the decorated top makes it the perfect cake for a white Christmas. The decoration ideas are unlimited in number, but marzipan usually features in most of them, glazed cherries too and sometimes, apricot jam.

Tips for the Christmas Cake

♦ Try to avoid opening the door of the oven before the cake is fully done. This may delay the baking process and the cake will not be thoroughly cooked.
♦ Cakes made for Christmas have a lot of sugar and so the cake might get burned. Cook at lower temperature and cut out the burnt part once the cake is fully done.
♦ For storage, wrap the cake in cheesecloth or muslin and foil it. Keep it in an airtight container.
♦ Avoid keeping the cake in the fridge as it hardens the cake and makes it brick-like.
♦ Do not try any creativity over baking if you are an amateur. Leave the creativity part for decorations and see how a simple cake becomes the talk of the town.(wink!)
Though the recipes for a Christmas cake vary from country to country, sometimes even households hold their own recipes against others, the effect is the same. The spirit of Christmas, the warmth of the alcohol baked into it, and the zing of the spices that make it different, however grand and expensive.