Note from the idiot: I thought stir it up Sunday was on 17 November, so I made my cake – and wrote this post – on the 17th. Someone kindly pointed out on my Facebook page that I had the dates wrong – whoops. So I had to leave the post for a week to launch it, but of course at least it gives me an extra week ‘feeding’ time so that it will be even more delicious and boozy come Christmas Day!
Despite loving Christmas, I am not a massive fan of a lot of festive food – or rather, I am fussy about many aspects of the seasonal goodies on offer and therefore avoid many of them. For example, I rarely eat mince pies, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding because I cannot stand mixed peel. Turkey is often dry and so I can’t be bothered chewing through it. Brussell sprouts are too earthy and boring. Parsnips are too sweet. Brandy butter too claggy. I detest marzipan. So the only way I know I will like these things is if I make them myself.
Last year I made Delia’s Christmas cake for the first time ever, and it was nice: no peel (yay!) and pleasantly stodgy. However, following the recipe religiously has never been my thing … even though with baking you really should … and I wanted to tweak things a little to make the cake more to my taste – after all, a Christmas cake at least should be a personal thing.
First in my tweaks was the dried fruit. I have to be honest here – I only had currants and sultanas in the house and because I decided to make the cake at the last minute, I had to make do with what I had so that I would still be able to manage the requisite overnight soaking in booze. In total Delia used 900g of dried fruit (currants, sultanas and raisins), glace cherries and mixed peel (yak). She soaked the currants, sultanas and raisins in 100ml brandy overnight, and I remember thinking that was quite a tight amount of booze for all that fruit.
So what I did was get back from the pub late at night and ready for bed, and put my sultanas and currants in a tuppaware dish with a lot of honey rum. I don’t know how much fruit there was; I don’t know how much rum there was, but it all went in the dish and I forgot about it until the next day.
The actual cake part of the recipe is very simple – flour, brown sugar, eggs, spices, butter and treacle. Once again I went slightly off piste with the spices as I love mixed spice and I think Delia’s a bit stingy with it, so I used a whole teaspoon instead of her half. I mixed all those ingredients together with my trusty KitchenAid and then just had to add the fruit and nuts to the cake mix.
Once again, I did my own thing: along with the soaked sultanas and currants, I added 200g of glace cherries (compared to Delia’s 50g) as I love them … not sure they were ever actually a real cherry from a tree as they are a rather alarming red colour and more like sweeties than fruit, but they are yummy so I wanted lots of them in the cake. I also added chopped blanched almonds – probably more like 100g than Delia’s 50g because that’s what I happened to have in the house. I mixed all the fruit into the cake mix and then couldn’t resist a little bit of bowl-licking. WOW! Just a couple of licks of the spoon and I felt like I’d knocked back a shot of booze!
I spooned the boozy goodness into a lined square baking tin and covered the top with more parchment (Delia’s suggestion), and then left the cake to slow cook in the oven for 4 hours at 140 degrees. The smell in the kitchen throughout the cooking time was fabulous – spicy, fruity, cakey deliciousness. You do have to make sure you are not planning to bake anything else in the interim though, because 140 degrees is too low to cook yourself dinner!
My cake took four hours to cook – Delia says it will take a minimum of four hours so I was expecting more (last year I had made the cake after work and was up until nearly 1am waiting for the bloody thing to cook through!). Give yourself a good five hours cooking time just to be safe. Once out of the oven, allow it to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before you take it out and complete the cooling process on a wire rack.
Once completely cool, you need to store the cake in an airtight container until you are ready to ice it. That of course, will have to be the subject of a later blog post, but what I did today was wrap the cake in tin foil and then popped it in a large tuppaware dish. It will live in my under-stairs cupboard (dry and cool, where I can forget about it instead of pick at it!) for the next few weeks and I’ll feed it with a few splashes of rum every few days until I half it (half for me, half for Mum) and decorate the cakes just before Christmas. Mum and I had a great time decorating the cakes last Christmas, so hopefully she will come over and we can do the same this year.
Delia’s original recipe is here, but this is what I did.
900g of mixed fruit (whatever takes your fancy out of sultanas, currants, raisins, glace cherries, dates, figs etc), a couple of big slugs of booze of your choice (I used honey rum, but you could use brandy, whisky, sherry, port etc – or orange juice if you don’t fancy alcohol), 225g plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt, a good grating of nutmeg, 1 tsp mixed spice, 225g dark brown sugar, 4 large eggs, 1 dessertspoon of black treacle, 225g softened butter, 100g chopped almonds (skin off for me – sorry Delia!)
Soak your choice of fruit overnight in your choice of booze. Give it a couple of stirs so it all gets the chance to soak up the liquid. Pre-heat your oven to 140 degrees / gas mark 1. Line a tin with greaseproof paper. Put the flour, salt, spices and sugar in a food mixer and mix to get rid of any lumps in the sugar, then add the eggs, treacle and butter and mix until well combined. Then stir in the fruit and nuts. Pour the batter into your prepared tin, and cover the cake with a double layer of greaseproof paper which has a little hole in it to let out steam (try not to let the paper touch the cake mixture). Bake for at least 4 hours but it is most likely to be closer to 5 hours before a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes in the tin and then move to a wire rack for final cooling. Once completely cold, store in an airtight container until you are ready to decorate the cake, feeding it with more booze every few days. And of course if you end up making the cake a week earlier than you are supposed to, then you have time to feed it with EVEN MORE BOOZE – YAY!