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Easy-Action Christmas Cake

by . Featured in FEAST
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Introduction

I just throw everything into a pan, let the heat from the stove send buttery rum and citrus juices permeating into the currants, sultanas and raisins, add flour and eggs, a can of chestnut purée to give grainy, Christmassy depth, bung the lot into a cake tin and let this stand in a low oven to produce a cake that is as dense, aromatic and fruity as you could hope for. The input from you is mimimal. Culinary self esteem – and Christmas spirit – never came at so low an emotional cost.

You can decorate as you wish, but here I have tried to get a bit artistic and have used my Smooth Hatbox Icing, cutting out a wibbly-wobbly hillscape and some trees and a star with my cookie cutters. The partially iced cake doesn't last as well as a fully covered one, but has a dramatic prettiness, if such is not a contradiction in terms. If you choose to do the same, I'd recommend halving the quantities for the icing.

I just throw everything into a pan, let the heat from the stove send buttery rum and citrus juices permeating into the currants, sultanas and raisins, add flour and eggs, a can of chestnut purée to give grainy, Christmassy depth, bung the lot into a cake tin and let this stand in a low oven to produce a cake that is as dense, aromatic and fruity as you could hope for. The input from you is mimimal. Culinary self esteem – and Christmas spirit – never came at so low an emotional cost.

You can decorate as you wish, but here I have tried to get a bit artistic and have used my Smooth Hatbox Icing, cutting out a wibbly-wobbly hillscape and some trees and a star with my cookie cutters. The partially iced cake doesn't last as well as a fully covered one, but has a dramatic prettiness, if such is not a contradiction in terms. If you choose to do the same, I'd recommend halving the quantities for the icing.

Easy-Action Christmas Cake
Photo by James Merrell

Ingredients

Makes: about 10-12 slices

Metric Cups
  • 775 grams best-quality mixed dried fruit
  • 175 grams unsalted butter
  • 250 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 1 x 250 grams tin sweetened chestnut puree
  • 125 millilitres dark rum
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 250 grams plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 6 cups best-quality mixed dried fruit
  • 1½ sticks unsalted butter
  • 1¼ cups dark brown sugar
  • 9 ounces tin sweetened chestnut puree
  • ½ cup dark rum
  • juice and zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150°C/300°F (though you might prefer to do this after the fruits and so forth have started bubbling in their pan). Line the sides and bottom of a deep 20cm / 8-inch round cake tin with a double layer of greaseproof paper (parchment paper). The greaseproof should be higher than the sides of the tin. Wrap a double layer of brown paper (the kind used for parcels) around the outside of the tin, tying it with string. The paper should be double the height of the tin, and this gives an extra layer of insulation for the cake so that it cooks slowly. If you don’t have any brown paper, it is not absolutely necessary, but it will keep the cake from becoming too dark around the sides and top.
  2. Put the dried fruit, butter, sugar, chestnut purée or spread, rum and orange juice and zests into a large wide saucepan and bring to the boil gently, stirring as the butter melts. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, and then take it off the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes, by which time the fruits will have been soused and the mixture cooled slightly. Now, add the beaten eggs, flour, baking powder and spices and stir to combine.
  3. Pour the fruit cake mixture very carefully into the prepared cake tin.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 1¾–2 hours, by which time the top of the cake should be firm and dry and will have cracked a little. If you insert a cake tester into the middle of the cake it will still come out a little sticky.
  5. Put the cake on a cooling rack and take off the brown paper from around the outside of the tin. It will hold its heat and take a long while to cool, but once it has cooled completely, unmould it from the tin and wrap the cake well in a layer of greaseproof paper and then foil until you want to decorate it.
  6. The cake will keep for a couple of months well wrapped and in a cool dark place. If you want a more boozy offering you can feed the cake with 3 tablespoons more rum as soon as it gets out of the oven. That’s to say, pierce the top of the cake several times with a fine skewer, spoon over the rum and let it sink in.
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150°C/300°F (though you might prefer to do this after the fruits and so forth have started bubbling in their pan). Line the sides and bottom of a deep 20cm / 8-inch round cake tin with a double layer of greaseproof paper (parchment paper). The greaseproof should be higher than the sides of the tin. Wrap a double layer of brown paper (the kind used for parcels) around the outside of the tin, tying it with string. The paper should be double the height of the tin, and this gives an extra layer of insulation for the cake so that it cooks slowly. If you don’t have any brown paper, it is not absolutely necessary, but it will keep the cake from becoming too dark around the sides and top.
  2. Put the dried fruit, butter, sugar, chestnut purée or spread, rum and orange juice and zests into a large wide saucepan and bring to the boil gently, stirring as the butter melts. Simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, and then take it off the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes, by which time the fruits will have been soused and the mixture cooled slightly. Now, add the beaten eggs, flour, baking powder and spices and stir to combine.
  3. Pour the fruit cake mixture very carefully into the prepared cake tin.
  4. Place in the oven and bake for 1¾–2 hours, by which time the top of the cake should be firm and dry and will have cracked a little. If you insert a cake tester into the middle of the cake it will still come out a little sticky.
  5. Put the cake on a cooling rack and take off the brown paper from around the outside of the tin. It will hold its heat and take a long while to cool, but once it has cooled completely, unmould it from the tin and wrap the cake well in a layer of greaseproof paper and then foil until you want to decorate it.
  6. The cake will keep for a couple of months well wrapped and in a cool dark place. If you want a more boozy offering you can feed the cake with 3 tablespoons more rum as soon as it gets out of the oven. That’s to say, pierce the top of the cake several times with a fine skewer, spoon over the rum and let it sink in.

Tell us what you think

What 1 Other has said

  • Made this for Christmas - dead easy and delicious! About to make another one if I can find any chestnut puree. Fruitcake heaven!

    Posted by Suzanne88 on 2nd January 2016
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