Christmas is fast approaching – and with two months to go before the big day itself, it’s time to start getting organised.
It’s no fun to wake up on December 25 and realise there’s still lots to do in order to prepare for that inevitable influx of family members. But there is one thing we can all do, right now, to take some of that pressure off – and that’s make our Christmas cake.
If you’ve never made a Christmas cake, the task can be quite daunting (though as I’m sure people will tell you, not as daunting as putting on a full Christmas dinner for the family!). That said, there are plenty of step-by-step guides out there to help. Once you have the ingredients; the key ones being mixed dried fruits – sultanas, raisins and currants are the most popular – butter and flour, the rest is a doddle.
You might think that Christmas cakes don’t take that long to make – and in essence you’d be right, as baking them can take anywhere from around two, to four and a half hours. But if you want to make a traditional fruit cake – and one with plenty of booze in it – then you need to give said booze plenty of time to soak in your dried fruits before you even begin making the cake. How long? Queen of Cakes Mary Berry suggests, when using her favourite tipple, sherry, that the fruit should be soaked for three days. Extra alcohol can then be poured over or into the cake every few weeks before serving.
If, on the other hand, you want to make a cake with a little less alcohol in it, then why not follow James Martin’s recipe? Before baking, you can remove the alcohol from the list of ingredients, and once your cake is cooled, simply poke some holes in your creation with a skewer and pour in two tablespoons of your chosen tipple. Do this every couple of weeks until your cake is just how you like it.
To Tipple or Not to Tipple?
Two of the key questions that often arise when making a Christmas cake are: ‘What tipple should you use?’ And: ‘How much? Over the years, Christmas cakes have included a number of spirits – like rum, whisky, stout and brandy. As for how much alcohol to use, that depends on personal preference, as well as how much your friends or family enjoy the odd tipple.
For those who don’t like alcohol, Delia Smith suggests freshly-pressed orange juice as a good alternative, although as some people have commented online, it doesn’t hold much taste against the flavour of the fruit.
It doesn’t matter how much or little alcohol you feed into your cake, in between applications, be sure to wrap well in cling film and ideally store in an air-tight container and keep in a cool, dry place. Also, don’t pour any alcohol in the week before you’re due to serve it, as the cake’s surface needs time to dry before you ice and decorate with marzipan. This is to ensure that it sets properly – who wants a mushy cake, anyway?
With the marzipan set, your cake is finished and you’re ready to wow your guests. Happy, slightly-less-stress-Christmas!
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Until next time…