Making a Christmas Cake and making a wish over the mixing bowl really marks the start of Christmas in our house.
I’m not great at letting the kids get involved though (mess! spillage!) and have been on the lookout for a simpler recipe that would be easier for my three little elves to manage.
Huge thanks to Anna at North Leeds Mumbler for sharing hers, which allows you to substitute alcohol for cold Earl Grey tea.
When we tried it, I spread a disposable tablecloth onto the kitchen floor and had us all work down there so that I wouldn’t care about mess. I also measured out everything but the sugar and flour myself, and grated/juiced the fruit, to make it as easy as possible for the kids.
Full disclosure: I still ended up getting snappy. Next year I will measure out everything, have my husband watch the toddler and make sure no one is on a sugar high when they come in to help (throwing tennis balls around the kitchen was not in the recipe, child number two!!).
But the recipe was much more child-friendly than my previous one and my seven-year-old managed it wonderfully.
My oldest two loved spooning the icing onto it the next day, and I let them make their own fondant figures and go to town with sprinkles, although I kept hold of the edible glitter!
Overall, we’re really happy with how it turned out and can’t wait to dig in nearer Christmas.
500 dried mixed fruit
60g glace cherries
85ml cooking brandy or cold tea
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
175g dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp black treacle
175g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
60g whole almonds, walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 Tbsp sieved apricot jam
400g ready-made ready-rolled marzipan
50g icing sugar
Icing (My icing was too thick with these proportions, so I doubled the egg whites and lemon juice)
1 egg white
350g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Decorations (we used gold, white and silver sprinkles, edible glitter and fondant to make Christmas figures)
Grate the orange and lemon zest into a bowl and squeeze in the juices. Mix in the dried fruit and glace cherries, then add the brandy or tea. Cover with clingfilm and soak for a minimum of 1 hour, but overnight if possible.
Grease and line a 20cm cake tin (preferably with a removable base).
Preheat the oven to 150°C, gas 3, fan 130°C.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar and black treacle until paler and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating each one in thoroughly before adding the next.
In another bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds and mixed spice and stir to mix thoroughly. Then add these dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and fold in gently until thoroughly combined.
Finally add the soaked fruit and all the juices, plus the nuts and fold gently together until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
Turn the mixture into your prepared cake tin and flatten the surface. Place in the centre of the oven, and bake for 2 hrs or until golden brown and springy to the touch. Use a sharp knife or skewer to test the cake. If there is still wet mixture on the blade, bake for another 20-30 mins. It should come out clean.
When the cake is cooked, cool for an hour in the tin and then turn out onto a wire rack. You can pierce the cake all over with a skewer and add another tbsp brandy to soak in if liked. The cake can be kept wrapped in foil or clingfilm in a tin for up to 2 months. You can also ‘feed’ the cake every so often with a little brandy if you want but we’d advise limiting this to once a month so as not to overpower it!
When you are ready to finish the cake, warm the apricot jam to soften, and brush over the whole cake. Dust the work surface with a little icing sugar, and roll out half the marzipan.
Cut a 20cm circle drawing round the cake tin as a pattern. Cut out a band of marzipan, again using the side of the tin as a guide.
Place the circle on the top, and stick the band around the sides, pressing into place and filling any gaps.
If possible, allow the marzipan layer to dry overnight.
To make the icing, beat the sifted icing sugar with the egg white and lemon juice until glossy. Spread over the cake with a palette knife, forming soft peaks to look like snow drifts. Decorate with edible silver balls or other decorations (we used fondant to create characters then sprinkled with edible glitter).
If you’ve got any other top tips for baking your Christmas cakes we’d love to hear them or even see some photos of previous creations. You can share them with us in the Calderdale Mumbler Chat Group.