So this is how I spent my morning. A bit of frenzied weighing, chopping and mixing, then several hours of inhaling delicious cake-baking smells. Mmmmm..
Anyway, here's what I did!
This is not my own recipe, it's a Sue Lawrence Christmas cake recipe with a few tweaks for personal taste.
The tweaks being that I don't like cinnamon, ground cloves, mixed peel or brandy so I've made some substitutions - ground ginger instead of the cinnamon and ground cloves, chopped dried figs (and actually a few chopped dates this year as well) instead of the mixed peel, and whisky instead of brandy. I always use whisky instead of brandy in Christmas cakes and it always works well! And this is what I like so much about Christmas cakes, they with stand quite a bit of tweaking - I've tried quite a few recipes over the years, substituting when they call for such horrors as mixed peel, glace cherries, cinnamon and nutmeg. They've all been fine, but I like the Sue Lawrence recipe as a base the best so it's the one I've stuck with for the last few years.
I tried one recipe one year which called for a couple of tablespoons of treacle which was a bit of a 'mare because a) treacle is such a pain to work with and got everywhere and b) I don't use treacle for anything else so I had the tin sitting oozing in the cupboard until the end of time (or until I got fed up with it).
250g self-raising flour
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
three-quarters of a teaspoon of ground ginger
50g ground almonds
50g dried figs, chopped
50g dried apricots, chopped
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
50g whole (unblanched) almonds, roughly chopped
250g unsalted butter, softened
200g dark muscovado sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
5 large free-range eggs
100ml whisky (any cheap stuff). Plus will need some for 'feeding'.
1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/330F/Gas 2, and prepare tin (grease and line with baking parchment).
[Actually I don't preheat the oven until just before stage 3 because it takes me forever to do all the weighing out and chopping]
2. Sift the flour spices and ground almonds into a bowl. Then add the currants, sultanas, raisins, figs, dried apricots and nuts. Stir thoroughly.
3. In a separate bowl cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one, adding a teaspoon of the flour mixture with each egg.
4. Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture with the lemon juice and whisky.
5. Spoon into the prepared tin. Level the top and bake for two hours. Very loosely cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and continue to bake for another hour, making three hours in total - but test for readiness after two and three quarter hours' cooking. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean and the sides have started to shrink from the edges of the tin.
6. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Once completely cold, wrap in foil and store in an airtight container 'til Christmas. removing every two weeks to 'feed': unwrap, prick the top with a long skewer and spoon over 1-2 tbsp of whisky. Reseal as before.
The original recipe calls for 350g each of raisins, currants and sultanas but I vary the amounts of each from year to year (providing it adds up to 1050g) - I prefer a dark cake so tend to use fewer sultanas and make up the weights with raisins and currants. Last year the proportions were 450g raisins, 350g currants, 250g sultanas, but this year I fancied a higher proportion of currants.
I have some dried fruit left so I'm considering making mincemeat next. I've never made it before - I usually buy a jar of mincemeat with good intentions, then not get round to making mince pies. Maybe I will this time!