It’s funny the little quirky traditions that families have. When I was a little girl I used to insist to my parents that we had to make a Christmas cake every year (despite my poor Dad being forced to eat old, dry Christmas cake until Easter). I loved standing up on a chair at the dining table helping to measure out ingredients and using the electric mixer. We were never allowed to commence baking without grabbing the one and only Christmas VHS we owned and putting it on. It was quite a dark, old film. The 1970 musical adaption of Dickens’ Christmas classic “Scrooge” starring Albert Finney. Even in later years when I had my own Christmas films, it had to be that one. Of course as I became an older teenager, the tradition faded but once I became married and started a family of my own the urge for homemade Christmas cake came back.
I’d never heard of Mary Berry before The Great British Bake Off on TV but after falling in love with her, I had to try her Christmas cake recipe. For the last few years my husband and I have been so impressed with the quality of our Christmas cakes, we can barely believe that we made them ourselves. So here is her recipe, taken from goodtoknow.co.uk. Maybe it will become your favourite Christmas cake recipe too?
175g (6 oz) raisins
350g (12 oz) glace cherries, rinsed, thoroughly dried and quartered
500g (1lb 2oz) currants
350g (12oz) sultanas
150ml (¼ pint) sherry, plus extra for feeding
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
250g (9oz) butter, softened
250g (9oz) light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp black treacle
75g (3oz) blanched almonds, chopped
75g (3oz) self-raising flour
175g (6oz) plain flour
1½ tsp mixed spice
To finish and decorate Mary Berry’s Christmas cake:
About 3tbsp apricot jam, sieved and warmed
675g shop-bought almond paste
Packet royal icing mix to cover 23cm/9in cake
Put all the dried fruit in a container, pour over the sherry and stir in the orange zest. Cover with a lid, and leave to soak for 3 days, stirring daily. Grease and line a 23cm (9in) deep round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 140C, 120C fan, gas 1.
Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a very large bowl and beat well. Add the flours and mixed spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 4-4½ hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after 2 hours, and, if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little extra sherry. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place for up to 3 months, feeding at intervals with more sherry. (Don’t remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist.)
Decorate with almond paste and royal icing.
To prepare the Christmas cake ahead: Prepare the fruit and soak in sherry 3 days ahead – this is essential to plump up and flavour the fruit. Make the cake and wrap as in stage 4. Store in a cool place for up to 3 months, following stage 4. You could also freeze the cake before decorating, for up to 3 months; defrost at room temperature.
Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection is available from Amazon, RRP £16.99
The combination of soaking the dried fruit for three days in freshly grated orange zest and sherry is what makes this recipe so deliciously moist and tasty. No photos of our finished cake just yet, as it’s being wrapped and fed for the next few weeks before we ice it for the big day but will post photos when it’s ready. The house now smells Christmassy and I have a massive urge for more Christmas baking!