Competitive Christmas Cake in Progress. Part 1!

My friend and her DH came round for a cuppa last week and casually dropped into the conversation that they had just popped their home-made Christmas cake into the oven.

Now I am a tad competitive. Ok. I have self-imposed a ban on board games as I can't even let the children win Monopoly. So whilst expressing my interest in my friend's cake I was already planning my own!

I have made many Christmas cakes over the years but with a busy life had not bothered for the past few years.  Now enthusiasm fired by a combination of GBBO fever and the knowledge that I could not offer my friend shop-bought cake knowing she would be countering it with a lovely home-made one (shallow I know!) made me decide this was the year I was going to take on the apron again.

My friend had chosen to go Delia. She outline the process of making a cake she had endured and it seemed a bit over complicated to me. So I dragged out my battered, stained "Good Housekeeping" given to me as a teenager by my Granny (yes, I was a sad teenager who asked for an old-lady cookery book for Christmas).

Their fruit cake recipe is fab- It comes in the form of a chart and you pick the size and shape of your tin and follow the column down for quantities. I had an eight inch round or a 9 inch square - DH voted for the bigger the better but I went for smaller (and cheaper!) mainly because I had enough ingredients already for that size!

First came the dull bit - greasing and lining the tin. I have a spring-form tin with a loose bottom (snigger!) but still know that it is vital to do a good job of this bit otherwise you end up with cake-bits or a cake with lumps missing!

I have some ready-cut silicone pieces I use to line the bottom so first - butter, then cake tin liner. Lots of butter round the edges. Job done.

The recipe calls for you to mix the assorted fruity bits - I chose 1 bag of ready mixed dried fruit, 1 bag of sultanas, 1 tub of glace cherries all of which I soaked overnight in alcohol. Not in the recipe but  something I always do for fruit cake.

Now. The recipe called for brandy. I didn't have any brandy. I thought we had some port. Nope. All gone (or hidden?) I grovelled in my cupboards. Found some ancient  dark rum. That'll do. Sloshed it over fruit. Hmmm. Needs more. More grovelling. Aha! Strawberry vodka. That's fruity and alcoholic. That'll do I thought. Slosh slosh.

Next comes creaming butter and sugar. Funds are a bit tight at the moment and I didn't want to buy anything especially so I used up the last of the baking marg, some unsalted butter I bought by accident a few weeks back and a teeny bit of salted butter.

The recipe just asked for sugar but I thought it would be nice to used a mix of demerara and golden brown caster sugar. Gives a nice colour and a slightly richer taste. Plus it needed using up.
Beat in beaten eggs.

At this point my two youngest children decided they wanted to help - one still in her PJs and Grumpy in his Hallowe'en (or in our case "Light up the Dark" party costume).
Cue lots of great maths chat about how many more eggs did we need to make 5 etc....

Added in flour, spices (with added nutmeg not in recipe 'cause I love it!) and then boozy fruit. Splosh of bottled lemon juice because I didn't have any real ones to zest.

Recipe instructs me to fold in more brandy. Oh FFS! I still haven't got any brandy! Cue more grovelling in cupboard. Bingo! A forgotten miniature of Ameretto from last Christmas - that'll do especially since I left out the flaked almonds because a. I don't like them and b. it would have added another couple of quid to the cost of the cake!

Splish, splash, fold, fold. (or mix enthusiastically and flick cake mix all over kitchen in the case of the children).

I was now being assisted by a herd of children in assorted nightwear and costumes plus a large stuffed
bear called Roy, sent home from school for me to photograph doing wholesome family activities with Grumpy. Thanks for that school.

Onto prepping cake for the oven. Recipe instructed me to wrap tin up in greaseproof paper or newspaper and tie with string then plonk in oven sitting on more greaseproof paper or newspaper. Done. Quite proud of how wholesome, vintage-ey and 1950's my cake looked. Awarded myself many good-mother and good-housewife points and tipped last dregs of Ameretto into mouth as reward!
Left children to "clear up" aka lick anything with cake mix on it ignoring niggling doubts about raw eggs.

After one and a half hours of baking I actually remembered to add my cake's hat - a circle of greaseproof paper which I cut a small hole into to allow steam out to prevent my cake from burning on top. I'd even made a small hollow in mix on top of the cake to create flatter top instead of peak when cake had risen - get me!

After a total of three and a half hours the timer went off. I tested cake with a skewer - if it comes out with mix on, the cake is not ready. I decided it could stand a bit longer and added 20 mins to the timer.
And after that it was done! I left it in the tin to cool as instructed then a few hours later with the help of the springform tin and a sharp knife to loosen I turned my cake out.

What can I say! It seems to be a triumph! But I can't taste it yet - I have weeks of "feeding" it with more random alcohol and then marzipanning and icing. I'm planning to make both from scratch so come back  if you are at all invested in the outcome. Or so bored even this passes as entertainment.

Meanwhile my cake has been wrapped up in greaseproof paper again and popped in my pound shop cake container. And I'm off to explore the back of my cupboards to see if I can find something alcoholic to tip over it next week.

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