Thursday, 10 November 2011

Christmas & Cake

So last on Friday night (post delayed due to Fireworks favour and then a very busy week) I made my Christmas cake.  This is the first Christmas cake I have ever made so I hope it's good!  I decided last Christmas that as this will be my first one as a wife I would like to be the hostess.  We usually go to Nik's parents as mine live in Saudi Arabia and until we were married it would have been impossible (without lying) to get Nik a visa to visit.  (Now that we are married if I want to visit alone I will actually require a letter from him giving me permission!  Crazy!)
So anyway, we have thus far avoided the argument of who gets to see their parents on Christmas day as I never see mine at that time of year anyway, they tend to visit in October.  Last year I mentioned to the impending in-laws that I would like them to come to us in Glasgow this year and they seemed very happy to!  We have of course invited our brothers and Nik's brother's fiancée but we're waiting to hear if they are coming or not.

I have lots of plans and ideas (post wedding blues? I'm far too busy!) to decorate the table and the flat in general and have already made a list of food ideas.  I've also been getting lots of decorating inspiration via Pinterest as well!

Silver & Green
Wish I had a mantelpiece!

Love it all except the trees are a bit much

So, the cake recipe is one from this book by the Hairy Bikers which I received from a Hamper at work last year!  This recipe is ideal for us as Nik is allergic to nuts (so am I but only to certain ones bizarrely - he's allergic to all nuts) and this recipe has no nuts.

You can make this up to 6 weeks in advance - I was a few days early but hoping the alcohol helps preserve it - I've seen recipes you can make even earlier so am sure it will be fine!  Makes a 20cm square or 23cm round cake (I only had a 20cm round tin and it seems to have worked OK - fingers crossed!)

Some essential cooking ingredients for me:

May have something to do with the injury later... 
Sing along music!  ;)

150ml sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing the tin
280g plain flour
650g sultanas (In the interest of my apparent obsession with changing recipes, I used 600g and added 50g of dried sour cherries)
300g raisins
20g chopped dates
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom (I couldn't find this so ground my own - see pics)
1 tsp mixed spice
120ml barley malt syrup (I found this in Holland & Barrett)
       OR molasses
180g brown rice syrup (couldn't find this!)
      OR golden syrup
4 free-range eggs, beaten
20g dried pineapple (re-hydrated in 50ml water)
50g grated carrot
finely grated zest of 1 orange
finely grated zest of 1.5 lemons

Brandy, Rum or Calvados (to feed)


Preheat the oven to 140 C or Gas 1.  Grease your cake tin with a little sunflower oil and line it with 3 layers of baking parchment.

Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the sultanas, raisins, cherries (if using), dates, bicarb, salt, cardamom and mixed spice and stir well.

Cardamom Pods

Bash them up and remove the husks

Remaining seeds

Ground Cardamom
Add the barley malt syrup and brown rice syrup and mix them in thoroughly.

Sir in the beaten eggs, then the sunflower oil.  Add the pineapple and the water you soaked it in, grated carrot and orange and lemon zest and give it all a good stir until everything is well combined.

Owaatch!  Grating injury :(
Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin - it should reach about three-quarters of the way up the tin.  Cover the top with a sheet of greaseproof paper and put the cake in the preheated oven.

Bake for 2 hours and 15 minutes, then test it with a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake.  If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is cooked.  If not, put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes, then test again.  The cake might need up to 2 hours and 45 minutes, depending on your oven and tin.

Deal with the aftermath while cake is baking!
When the cake is cooked, take it out of the oven and leave it to cool in the tin.  Then transfer it to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and foil and store in a cool, dry place until Christmas.  If you want your cake extra boozy, feed it once a week!  Make some holes in the top with a skewer and carefully pour over some brandy, rum or calvados.  Allow it to soak in, then wrap the cake up again.

I will be decorating it nearer the time so come back in December for hints and tips!

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