…Mrs Cratchit entered, flushed, but smiling proudly, with the pudding like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.Portuguese readers,to avoid disappointment, look away now, as what follows is how to make a "proper" Christmas fruit cake.Receita Bolo Ingles não é.
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
– Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
From the the Anglican pulpit this Sabbath, the last before Advent, English churchgoers will hear an unintentional reminder from the Book of Common Prayer that it’s time to make the Christmas cake and pudding. “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord…” starts the Collect of the day.
And yet the tradition of Stir-up Sunday, with the whole family gathering in the kitchen to pummel the mixture and make a wish, appears to be going the same way as church attendances.There is a self righteousness that the church of England dispenses to its flock that they must do what they ought to do and be seen to be doing it.Family values must be adhered to at all times.This preaching has fallen on deaf ears.It seems nowadays that most British children have never stirred a Christmas cake batter mix. The nuclear family now buy pre-made puddings.Inspired by rising sales of everything from whisks to wooden spoons,John Lewis, the secular Angel Gabriel of Christmas television ads, is doing its best to revitalise this tradition. Its gastronomic arm,Waitrose, encourages its middle class clientele to buy plum puddings.In my day it used to be labels such as Mrs Peek.Yes, there really was a Mrs Peek! Wife of the founder of Peek Frean Biscuits. In 1898 Mrs Peek's first pudding was launched, influenced by her childhood and the society she lived in.Todays shopper is now more likely to be tempted by more glamorous celebrity branded puddings, carrying names such as Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver or royal cake maker Fiona Cairns.
|Some words of advice from Royal cake maker Fiona Cairns|
Fruitcake is a cake made with chopped candied fruit and/or dried fruit, nuts, and spices, and soaked in spirits. A cake that simply has fruit in it as an ingredient can also be colloquially called a fruit cake.Like the proverbial chalk and cheese,oil and water and the grape and the grain, these things just don´t go together, and could never mix together. So bearing this in mind, what can I put in my Christmas cake this year that would be a break with tradition and make for something more innovative? Last year I included fresh figs and consequently ended up with a cake that had a very short shelf life.Oh what a hardship.It just had to be eaten quicker.Ok, I have cogitated, deliberated and a decision has been reached.My controversial ingredients are going to include amaretti biscuits to pack a proper almond punch,salted cherries and Elvas plums for syrupy stickiness, amongst others.This year I am making a small cake and was in a bit of a quandary as to how to downscale my ingredients from my usual recipe for a 10inch / 25cm diameter cake.No worries Delia to the rescue.I will let you know how I get on.If you are left with too much batter for your selected size of tin,use it up to make mini Christmas cup cakes.
makes one 15cm ( 6 inch ) round or 13cm (5 inch) square cake tin
Preparation time30 minutes ( plus overnight optional)
Cooking - 3- 31/2 hours
4 oz currants
soup spoon mixed spice
2oz /55g glace cherries,rinsed and finely chopped
2oz/55g mixed peel,finely chopped
4oz/110g Elvas plums(de-stoned weight)
2 oz/55g dried apricots,chopped
2 oz/55g Dried figs,chopped
2 oz/55g dried plums,chopped
2 oz/55g salted cherries,de-stoned
3 tbsp brandy
4 oz/110g plain flour
freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz/55g blanched almonds,roughly crushed
4 oz/110g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp molasses ( I used the syrup from the Elvas plums)
4 oz/110g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1/2 grated rind of a lemon
1/2 grated rind of an orange
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark3 ( 160ºC, 325ºF )
Sieve together the flour, spice and salt. In a large bowl mix together the fruits, nuts, peel and spiced flour coating all the fruits with the flour.In a second bowl cream the butter and sugar until quite light in colour. Beat in the eggs then the molasses, lemon and orange zest.
Combine the two mixtures in one bowl. Mix well, adding enough rum or brandy to arrive at a soft dropping consistency.
Butter and line the bottom and sides of a 15cm round or 13cm square cake tin with double buttered paper. Fill with mixture and level the top. bake for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to gas mark 1 (140ºC, 275ºF ) for a further 2- 21/2 hours.Test with a skewer to see when the cake is done. Leave to cool. Store for at least a month, spiking it with rum and or brandy once a week.