Last year, I baked 4 small Christmas cakes in one batch, I increased the baking time slightly but managed to burn the lot. I really don't want to make the same mistake this year but neither do I see sense in baking them all indiviually. Help please! Do I decrease cooking time?
The baking time for a Christmas cake should be roughly the same for a batch of cakes and for an individual cake, providing there is enough space between the cakes to allow the hot air to circulate freely in the oven. However most ovens have hotter spots and cooler spots and also with 4 cakes it is likely that you will have baked them on 2 or more shelves and in a regular oven the shelves higher up in the oven will be hotter than the shelves in the lower part of the oven, making the top shelf cakes more likely to burn quickly.
If baking batches of Christmas cakes it is best to rotate the cakes around at regular intervals. This means swapping the cakes between top and bottom shelves and also switching from the front to back of the oven. For christmas cakes with 2-3 hour baking times then rotate the tins (pans) every 30 minutes and start testing to see whether the cake is done (by inserting a skewer or cake tester into the centre) about 15 minutes before the end of the baking time. Also as the baking time for Christmas and rich fruit cakes is quite long, it is worth wrapping the outside of the tin with a double layer of brown paper (coming up about 10cm/4 inches above the top of the tin) as this will help to reduce the risk of the cake scorching.