You would not believe how expensive it is to make a Christmas cake in Hong Kong. All the lovely, christmassy ingredients are imported, and they all cost a small fortune. Take nutmeg for instance. Back home in England, Tesco’s sells it for a reasonable 95p, in Hong Kong it costs a whopping $67 – that’s getting on for 6 pounds just for nutmeg!! No, 95p Tesco value mixed fruit here either, each 500g bag cost about $40 – about 4 pounds!
Andy had a small fit when I told him how much I’d spent on the ingredients for the Christmas cake and the pud, and that didn’t include the icing and marzipan I’d already bought in England. As far as he’s concerned, no one ever eats either of them, and he’d much rather spend the money on several bottles of sherry for an eye-wateringly alcoholic sherry trifle. I’m not sure he was overly reassured when I promised him one of those would be on the Christmas table too….
As far as I’m concerned though it’s all ok, we’ll just live off rice for the next weeks. If you can splash out a little for Christmas, then when can you?
If you haven’t made your Christmas cake yet, there’s still time! Make it this weekend and it’ll still have time to mature before you ice it for the big day. If you actually take a little time to read the recipe beforehand, you’ll realize this is one that you should get under way the night before you plan to bake the cake. The fruits, cherries and peel should be soaked overnight in brandy until they’re plump, boozy and delicious. I didn’t read the recipe beforehand. My fruits soaked for about half an hour while I weighed the dry ingredients, prepared the tin and faffed around a bit.
Did anyone else forget to soak their fruit this year?!
100g chopped glace cherries
50g mixed candied peel
225g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 dessertspoon of black treacle
225g spreadable butter
50g chopped or sliced almonds
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
More brandy to feed the cake
The fruits should ideally be presoaked. Place the currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed fruit, dried peel and cherries into a bowl. Cover them with 100ml of brandy and give them a good stir around. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave to soak overnight.
If, like me, you are all ready to bake your cake and your heart is sinking as you read this step, don’t worry. Stick the fruits and brandy in a bowl and leave them for as long as you can while you get the rest of the ingredients ready. It’ll be fine.
When you’re ready to bake the cake, preheat your oven to 140C. Prepare your tin. Grease and line it with greaseproof paper, then wrap a double layer of greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin. Finally, if you have any to hand, wrap a double layer of brown parcel paper around the outside of the tin. This will help protect the cake during the long baking time.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, nutmeg, mixed spice, and salt. Mix together with the sugar, eggs and treacle, and beat until fluffy.
Slowly fold in your soaked (or not so soaked!) fruits.
Pour everything into your tin.
Make a lid of greaseproof paper to sit on the top. Cut a small circle into the middle of the paper lid, around the size of a screw top bottle lid. Sit this on the rim of the brown paper, or the greaseproof, that you have wrapped around the outside of the tin.
Cook the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for about 4 hours until it feels firm but a little springy to the touch. It might need a little longer to cook right through.
Once it’s cooked, start to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Once it’s fully cooled, you can start to feed it with brandy. Prick the top and bottom of the cake with a cocktail stick or similar, slowly pour a few tablespoons of brandy over, allowing it to sink into the cake.
Wrap the cake up in parchment paper, followed by a tight wrapping of tin foil. Store in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to ice it or eat it. Every so often take it out of it’s wrapping, give it another feed of brandy, and wrap it up again.
I’ll be back with pictures of the finished product once it’s iced and ready to eat!