A COOKING TRADITION that I uphold at the same time each year (mid October if you are interested); is beginning to make my Christmas Cake. Anticipating eagerly the mouthful of memories each bite affords. The excitement of all the tradition that goes with this festival.
One that I nearly discarded.
Upon marrying The Husband I altered my Religion (this topic warrants its own Blog Post one day) – joining a persuasion where Christmas doesn’t factor.
When we got married I said I DO to many things; which was lovely and all – however at the last minute I stood firm and said one I DON’T.
I refused to give up Christmas.
As a result, every year The Husband joins in as best he can. It is hard for him, he doesn’t feel the emotional pull. When he was a kid; 25 December was simply the day when he and his friends would get Bondi to themselves. Everyone else was at home stuffing themselves with Turkey and fighting with family (clearly this was in the days before droves of homesick British Tourists hit our shores – now the beach is full of baking Pommies).
To his credit he has played the game; donning Santa suits and swilling beer (not too much of a hardship), crunching the carrots and demolishing the cookies. His footprints are the perfect size for the talcum powder ‘snow’ that leaves a hint as to Father Christmas’ route.
For the cake I use a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess
, bequeathed to her by a Kiwi friend’s mother. So it ticks all the boxes for me. I swear it never fails and delivers in a heavy, fruity and deliciously moreish way.
I didn’t bother to ice it until last year, and now I add that tradition. Almond and white icing that you can peel off and lick until the sugary pureness of it dissolves on your tongue.
Start now by marinating the fruit for a few days in the sherry or whiskey, so it becomes plump and juicy. Then bake and wrap well – the longer the cake sits to mature the better. Rather like life, I find it improves as you go on…
Paramount to the success of this cake is the people to share it with. Family and friends – in all their guises. A time to enjoy, reflect on good fortune and also consider how we might help others. Just offering a hand can make a difference to someone, we don’t all have to save the world on a grand scale.
Family time can illuminate the art of compromise and the brilliance of hindsight. We can feel the faith or simply take faith in being in the moment. We can be mindful and reflective; and have a bloody good time. …and yes The Husband loves the cake.
Have you taken on ‘new traditions’ over the years?
Is there a special dish that signifies the Festive Season to you?
RECIPE – NIGELLA LAWSON CLASSIC CHRISTMAS CAKE
For a 20cm square tin
110g glace cherries
110g mixed peel
120ml brandy or sherry
195g brown sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest, grated
1 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons marmalade
350g plain flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon almond essence
Temperature: 150 degrees Celsius
Cooking time: 3-3 ½ hours
Aim to make cake at least 3 weeks before you plan to eat it. This recipe does yield a huge cake – quite often (after baking) – I cut the cake in half and ice separately. It freezes well – or you can gift some (or eat it all yourself…)
Place all the fruit in a large bowl, add alcohol and cover. Leave to soak overnight (or longer if you have time).
Preheat oven to 150 degree coleus. Line your tin with a double thickness of brown paper (it helps prevent the fruit from burning), and then add a layer of baking paper – both to come up approx. 10cm above rim of tin.
Cream butter and sugar; beat in orange and lemon zest. Add eggs one at a time, then the marmalade. Sift dry ingredients together, mix soaked fruit alternatively with the dry ingredients, into the creamed mixture.
Put cake mix into the prepared tin and bake for approx. 3-3 ½ hours (or until a cake tester comes out clean). Watch towards the end that the top isn’t burning – if it is place a loose cover of alfoil over it.
When the cake is cooked, brush with a couple of tablespoons of extra sherry/brandy. Wrap cake immediately in its tin – double thickness of alfoil – to trap the heat to form steam, keeping the cake moist. When completely cold remove from tin (I brush more booze on top and sides) then wrap in foil and store (in an airtight container) for at least three weeks before icing.
Unbelievably yum and despite long list of ingredients, not hard to make!