How to make the very best Christmas Cake, Wedding Cake, or anything-else Cake.
Gather round, gentlemen, and I will share with you a closely-guarded Third Millennium Man secret that’s been kept under lock and key, for – well, actually it hasn’t. But it’s a really great cake recipe nonetheless. It isn’t going to be cheap – certainly nowhere near as cheap as buying a ready-made cake, but what do you expect? This celebration cake is the proverbial business. Be prepared for some serious envy from whoever you allow to try a slice.
I remember when I first lived on my own. I was invited over to my mother’s for Christmas Day. I wanted to make a contribution, and decided upon making the Christmas Cake.
Mother was – well, motherly. “Don’t worry about all those expensive ingredients” she said, “they don’t make any difference at all. It says in my recipe to use butter; I just use Stork. It says to use brown sugar; I just use the white stuff that I have”. She then went on to say how she uses the washing up bowl as she doesn’t own a mixing bowl large enough, and ended the conversation with how she was going to make her own, just in case mine didn’t turn out as hoped.
Despite Mother’s assurances to the contrary, I decided to just go for it. To make the best dang cake I possibly could. I started out with my basic recipe – which absolutely knocked Mother’s effort into a cocked hat, by the way – and I’ve been embellishing it and adding to it ever since. It’s now better than ever, though the core cake remains the same. I even use that same cake tin I did so many years ago.
For the very best possible results, make your cake well in advance. My best Christmas Cake was made in January. It gives the flavours a chance to mature. That does not mean to say it’ll be rubbish if it’s made a week before, it just means it’s for the best if you plan ahead.
A list of the things you’ll need:
This recipe requires the use of a 9” round cake tin.
- 450g currants
- 175g sultanas
- 175g raisins
- 100g dried apricots (chopped)
- 50g Glacé cherries (rinsed and chopped)
- 50g chopped mixed peel
- A medium-quality Brandy (not the absolute cheapest, but not a £45 bottle either)
- 225g plain flour
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- 225g Ghee at room temperature (look for it in the Ethnic Food aisle – it’s used a lot in Indian cuisine)
- 225g soft brown sugar
- 4 large free-range eggs
- 50g flaked almonds
- 1 dessertspoon black treacle
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- Zest of 1 lime
A week or so before you start to bake.
Place all your currants, sultanas, raisins, apricots, Glacé cherries and your mixed peel into a plastic sealable container with half a cup of brandy. Stir it all up and leave it to soak for a few days.
If all the Brandy soaks into the fruit rapidly, add more until it’s all soaked in. All that dryness is hungry for some moisture, so pour in some Brandy and you’re left with swollen, Brandy-infused fruit for your cake.
Doing this is infinitely preferable to just pouring Brandy into the cake mix, like they tell you to do in Cookery Books. Just pouring the Brandy in when you’re mixing the cake will introduce too much liquid into the mix. That’s why all the fruit in your Grandmother’s cake always sinks to the bottom.
Oh, and it’s important to rinse all that goo off your Glacé cherries by the way. All that syrupy sweetness cloys the mixture, swamping all those subtle flavours and textures you’re introducing. So chop ’em up a bit with your apricots (so they don’t just sink to the bottom of the cake but are evenly distributed) and then rinse all that sticky syrup off. It’s for the best.
Making and baking your cake.
Here we go – this is the actual mixing and baking of the cake.
- Grease and line the cake tin. This job can be a pain – so just because it’s you we’ve added a YouTube video showing you how to line a cake tin.
- Preheat the oven to 140°C (Gas Mk. 1). Warm up the opened tin of treacle inside your oven as it comes to temperature. The treacle will be a lot easier to work with when it’s warm.
- Sieve the flour, salt, nutmeg & mixed spice into a large bowl, mixing plenty of air into it.
- In a separate bowl, carefully cream together the Ghee and the sugar with a wooden spoon. Use your hands if you’re hardcore. Beat the eggs, and add them, a tablespoonful at a time, to the creamed butter and sugar. Beat it thoroughly after each addition of eggs.
- Fold the flour & spices into the mixture (fold, not beat – be gentle). Stir in the soaked fruit, the flaked almonds, the treacle, and the zest of the lemon, lime and orange.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level it off as best as you can. Gently cover the top of the cake with a layer of greaseproof paper, with a 5p-piece sized hole in the centre. Wrap a double-layer of greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin.
- Place the tin on a baking sheet or tray, on the lowest oven shelf. Bake it for 4 ¼ – 4 ½ hours. Resist the temptation to open the door until 4 hours have elapsed.
- Check your cake with a fine skewer. When the skewer comes out clean, your cake is baked. Congratulations!
- When the cake has cooled, wrap it well in clean greaseproof paper and store it in an airtight container.
- Feed the cake with more brandy at odd intervals by poking tiny holes in the surface with a needle and pouring a capful of brandy in at a time. Repeat this as often as you dare, before decorating.
So what happens when you’re ready to decorate the cake? Here’s a few more Third Millennium Man tips for you;
- Buy a jar or the best rindless Orange Marmalade you can find. Melt it a bit in the microwave, and smear it all over your cake. It acts like a glue that holds the following layers in place.
- Roll out some Golden Marzipan and lay it over the cake. Make sure there aren’t any gaps around the bottom.
- Mix up some icing. You can buy some Ready Rolled, but why start cutting corners at this late stage? Buy a box of Icing Sugar and mix it as directed. Although here at Third Millennium Man we prefer to mix the Icing Sugar with one free-range egg white and a tiny drop of Vanilla Extract. We just prefer it, that’s all.
Any Third Millennium Man tips on decorating the cake? None! That’s what kids are for. Borrow somebody else’s if you don’t have any of your own. Get a few good-quality decorations (you’ll find them in high-end cook shops) and a ribbon or a cake-band to wrap around the sides.
So there you have it; the very best Celebration Cake recipe doing the rounds. The trouble is, it’s so nice, you’ll wish you’d made two.
Once you’ve tried it, why not let us all know how you got on, using the Comments box below? It’s okay, you’re amongst friends here.