Christmas cakes (including gluten-free version)

Lots of drunken dried fruit and nuts flying in a loose formation amidst a cake mix that is very similar to a Victoria sponge –and it works gluten-free too.

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Ingredients:

16oz/550g currents

6oz/175g Raisins

6oz/175g Sultanas

6oz/175g Dried Apricots (chopped)

2oz/50g Dried apple (chopped)

16oz/550g Glace cherries

1 bottle brandy

2 Lemons

2 Oranges

6oz/175g Blanched almonds (chopped)

6oz/175g Brazil nuts (chopped)

16oz/550g Butter

16oz/550g Soft brown sugar

8 Large eggs

2 dessert spoons Treacle

16oz/550g Plain flour

2 heaped teaspoons Ground spices

1 heaped teaspoon Ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon Salt

1/2 bottle Brandy

Method:

Day 1:

Place all the dried fruit and cherries in a large bowl with the bottle of brandy and cover.  Stir daily.

Day 9:

Add strips of zest from the lemons and oranges to the fruit.

Add the juice of one orange and one lemon, stir and leave covered overnight.

Chop the nuts.

Soften the butter in a large covered bowl overnight.

Day 10:

Lightly grease tins with butter and line with baking parchment.

Cut double thicknesses of greaseproof paper to form loose covers over the tins – cutting a hole in the middle of each cover to release moisture.

Add the sugar to the butter and beat until lighter in colour, soft and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, two at a time with a couple of teaspoons of flour.

Beat in the treacle.

Fold in the remaining flour and spices.

Gently place about one quarter of the mixture in to your largest bowl and fold in about a quarter of the fruit and a quarter of the nuts.

Gently fold in.

Add another quarter each of the cake mixture,  fruit and nuts to the bowl and fold in.

Repeat until all the cake mixture and fruit are folded in this bowl, saving any remaining liquid from the fruit in a sealed container.

Heat the ovens to Gas Mark 1.

Gently spoon the mixture in to the tins, filling to the top but leaving a slight dip in the middle for any rise.

Cover the tins with the greaseproof paper and place in the ovens.

Place larger cakes on higher shelves.

Test after 2 hours – those on higher shelves may feel firm to the touch, leave no stickiness on an inserted skewer or knife and read over 90 degrees Centigrade in the centre.

It may be necessary to move cakes from lower to higher shelves and cook for another 15 minutes before re-testing.

Cool in tins overnight.

Day 11: 

Save greaseproof covers and use as lining for containers to store cakes.

Remove cakes from tins and place top down in containers.

Inject each with a little brandy.

Cover loosely.

Days 12-15:

Repeat as for Day 11, turning cakes right side up after a few days.

My Tips:

I have made double this quantity in the past although getting a bowl big enough is a challenge!  You could halve the quantities to make a single large cake but it may take up to another hour to cook.

You can cut the time for this recipe by reducing the soaking and feeding times (and so reducing the amount of brandy too).

I keep all nuts in the freezer so that their high fat content doesn’t taste rancid.  I prefer whole nuts roughly hand chopped to give more texture.

Commercial gluten-free flour works well in this recipe (I have made for years for my mother) or you can use 6 ounces rice flour, 6 ounces soya flour, 4 ounces potato flour and 1 teaspoon of xanthium gum instead of the wheat flour.

I use a range of cooking containers: metal with loose bottoms or silicone.  With this quantity, I made 2 4 inch pork pie tin sized, 24 muffin tin sized and 5 larger muffin-sized.  One or two of these smaller cakes can go in to a Christmas gift food hamper.

If using silicone, place a little water in any holes not filled to prevent burning.

I cooked on two shelves in each of two gas ovens – so the lower shelves were cooler.  A muffin tray on the top shelf would take around one and a half hours but two on a lower shelf.

Actually making the cakes doesn’t take long – perhaps an hour for this quantity.  It is the preparation, pre-soaking, cooking and feeding the cakes with brandy that all take a little time over many days.  So having some out-of-the-way space where much of this can go on without disturbing the rest of life is helpful.

I line roasting tins with the greaseproof paper and stack them while the brandy feeds continue.

There are commercial cake syringes to inject the cakes with brandy but I prefer a medical one as the needle is finer and does less damage to the cakes.  But you could also gently make holes in the cakes with a cocktail stick and then spoon over a little brandy to feed them.

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© 2022 - Penny Melville-Brown
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