Christmas cake tips
Recipe of the month, with Ann Murray
THIS month, instead of a recipe I’m sharing some tips for Christmas, especially the cake.
If you like to make your own cake, you’ll have your own favourite recipe – mine is Delia’s.
Here are a few thoughts and suggestions which I hope will be useful.
The Americans often talk about December as the time of Happy Holidays, not just Christmas.
That’s because it’s very much a multi-faith culture, and so you’re wishing people a happy time of celebration, whatever their religion.
Then I started thinking how stressful many people find Christmas. Not a Happy Holiday at all! It should be a time to spend with family and friends, to relax and be happy.
So, if you’re the one cooking and organising Christmas for your family, why not go easy on yourself?
Plan carefully, get ahead and, above all, keep it simple!
My grown-up children, with kids of their own, keep telling me not everything has to be home-made by me.
Some things I do like to make, like my Christmas cake.
It’s best to make it ahead for good flavour. I find that about six weeks ahead works well.
Then, if you like, you can “feed” it with alcohol (brandy, sherry, rum) or my special mix of a third of a pint of concentrated orange squash, two thirds of a pint of cold black tea and 3 tablespoons of sherry.
Using a metal skewer, pierce the cake all over. Spoon teaspoons of your chosen alcohol or mix into the holes once a week for the six weeks. This will give you a wonderfully moist cake.
And as for the cake itself, here’s a time-saving suggestion: why not visit Nature’s Choice, the revamped health shop in Horse Street, Chipping Sodbury?
Karen and her team have pre-weighed the main ingredients for a delicious Christmas cake, with recipe included.
Whilst you’re there, have look at all the eco-friendly interesting products available. You might even find some novel Christmas presents!
Tips for a foolproof Christmas cake
Making a Christmas cake is a time-consuming process, so make it easy on yourself and do it in stages:
Plan ahead and make the cake a month or two in advance. Rich fruitcakes improve in flavour with time.
Weigh out the dried fruit and peel and leave it to soak overnight to plump it up. You can use brandy, sherry, or rum, but if you prefer not to use alcohol, then use orange juice or even cold tea gives a lovely flavour. (No milk.)
Take time to line the tin properly: it will ensure you get a beautiful, well-cooked cake. It's worth buying some non-stick silicone paper so that you don’t have to grease it.
Try to use a cake tin with a loose bottom, to make removing the cake easier.
Lining cake tins
For rich cakes, which will be cooked for a long time, you should use double thickness of paper and line both the base and the sides of the tin.
You should also tie 2 or 3 thicknesses of brown paper or newspaper round the outside of the tin, to stop the outside of the cake becoming too well done.
Cut one or two strips of double non-stick silicone paper, long enough to reach around the outside of the tin with enough to overlap, and wide enough to come 2.5cm (1 inch) above the rim of the tin. Fold the bottom edge up about 2cm (¾ inch) and crease it firmly. Open out and make slanting cuts into the folded strip at 2cm (¾ inch) intervals.
Place the tin on a double thickness of non-stick silicone paper and draw around the base.
Grease the inside of the tin. Place one paper circle inside the base.
Place the long strips in the tin, pressing them against the side with the cut edges spread over the base.
Finally, place the second circle in the base.