Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christmas Cake

We're in the midst of a stretch of Christmas-type foods in our long list, so you shouldn't be surprised by our next culinary creation:

"After a meal of turkey sandwiches, crumpets, trifle, and Christmas cake, everyone felt too full and sleepy to do much before bed except sit and watch Percy chase Fred and George all over Gryffindor tower because they'd stolen his prefect badge" (Sorcerer's Stone 204).

Dinah Bucholz includes a recipe for Christmas Cake (for grown-ups) in her cookbook. Heads up, there's about a million and seven ingredients. Also a heads up, it took me three days to make it, because certain parts need to sit overnight. According to Ms. Bucholz' research, you can let the cake flavors mature for years before frosting this cake. No wonder Christmas fruitcake gets such a bad wrap!

For the Cake, You Will Need:
1/2 cup dark rasisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried currants of cranberries
1/2 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup brandy
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1.5 sticks (12 Tbs) butter, at room temperature
1.5 cups packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
grated zest and juice of 1 lime
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
1/2 cup marmalade
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup brandy, to finish
1/2 cup currant jelly, melted (smuckers actually does makes this in the US!)
2 pounds marzipan

For the Royal Icing, You Will Need:
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
5 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tsp vanilla

1. Place the dried fruit in a bowl and pour the brandy over it (I think a gallon-sized plastic bag is much better; that way all the fruit gets evenly soaked). Let soak overnight. Drain the fruit, reserving the brandy (If you use a plastic bag, you can cut off a tiny corner and squeeze out the brandy way more easily than by using a strainer).
2. Perheat the oven to 275 degrees. Grease and flour a 9" spring form pan and line with parchment paper. (I don't have a spring form pan, so I used 2 regular 9" cake pans).
3. Whisk together the flour, ground walnuts, baking powder, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, scraping the sides as necessary.

5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each until incorporated.

4th egg

6. Add the zest and juice of the lemon, lime, and oranges, along with the marmalade and reserved brandy. Beat until combined (it might look curdled, and that's okay).

7. Add the flour mixture and mix on the lowest speed until combined. Add the soaked dried fruit and chopped walnuts, and mix until combined.

8. Scrape the batter into your cake pan(s), smoothing the top with your spatula. Bake for 2.5 hours (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Let the cake cool completely in the pan(s).

9. Invert the cake onto a plate and remove the bottom (if you have 2 cakes, like me, use the one that will become the bottom). Poke holes in the bottom with a skewer and spoon the 1/4 cup brandy over the bottom, then stack them back together.

10. Wrap the cake well in plastic wrap and store it upside down. It apparently will stay fresh for months (even years!), you just need to add another 1/4 cup brandy each month and wrap it up tight again before storing upside down!
11. When you're ready to assemble the cake, flip it right-side up on a plate or cardboard round and brush the top and sides with the melted jelly.

12. Roll out the marzipan on a work surface (you may need to dust it with powdered sugar) into a 14" circle. This was really hard with my very crumbly marzipan... it may not have been very fresh. And yes, you really will need at least 1.5 pounds. I only used 1 pound, and it wasn't really enough.

13. Drape the marzipan round over the cake, and trim off the bottom with a sharp knife.

14. To make the royal icing, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft mounds form.

15. Gradually add the confectioners sugar. Add the vanilla and beat on high until stiff. And they mean really stiff! I didn't beat my icing long enough and it caused mega problems later.

16. Use a spatula to spread the icing thickly over the top and sides of the cake. My icing was not thick enough and so I spent a good 20 minutes trying to get it to stop melting down the sides of my cake. I ended up just letting it harden at bit pooled on the plate edges and re-frosted with it later. Allow the icing to harden (it should) before serving. Do not put the cake in the fridge, it will apparently ruin the icing.


Once the cake has set, even after being cut, it can be stored at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap. According to Ms. Bucholz, it will serve 16 hungry people for tea, or 32 stuffed people for dessert.

This cake is pretty tasty! It isn't often that one gets to use marzipan, but it really adds a nice flavor. Though I would suggest that if you are using two cake pans like I did, that you spoon 1/4 cup brandy over both layers to keep it more moist.


1 comment:

  1. Should have coins and/or trinkets baked in, that's part of the tradition. Your recipe is magnificent, though!