Mama’s Never Too Late Christmas Cake

In Medieval times in Britain on Christmas Eve a porridge made with oats, to which was added dried fruits, spices and honey was eaten.  This was the origin of Christmas Pudding.

The spices used were a reminder of the Wise Men – the 3 Kings that came from the East.

By the 16th Century as ovens became more in use, butter and eggs were added and wheat flour replaced the oats and this became the Christmas cake.

We never had this cake at home until sometime in the late 1970s when my mother tried out this recipe from a magazine.

It is a very moist cake and reminiscent of Christmas pudding.

Because it is so moist it will only keep for about 2 months but it is one that can be made really at the last minute and one year I made it just 4 days before Christmas.

However if you want to add marzipan & icing then you should make it about 2- 3 weeks in advance, to give time for this to be done.

Ingredients

900g mixture of currants, raisins & sultanas

175g chopped mixed peel (if you have a 200g tub just use it all)

175g glacé cherries cut in half (if you have a 200g tub just use it all)

Grated rind of 1 lemon & 1 orange

1 large cooking apple, peeled and coarse grated

225g fine grated carrots

1 teaspoon rum

110 ml strong cold tea (I use a scented one like Earl Grey)

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350g Butter or block margarine

350 g soft dark brown sugar

4 tablespoons of black treacle

6 large eggs – beaten

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400g plain flour – sieved

½ level teaspoon salt

6 level teaspoons mixed spice

½ level teaspoon of cinnamon

½ a grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon cocoa  – yes cocoa! – sieved

1 tablespoon ground almonds (optional)

 

 

Method

Put all the fruit, carrots, rum & tea into large bowl,  mix and leave for 15 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 2 – 150oC.

In another  large bowl, cream the margarine and sugar, beat in the treacle and eggs.

Mix all the dry ingredients together & fold them in using a large metal spoon.

Fold in the fruit mix using a large metal spoon.

This amount will make one of the following cake sizes:

10” square – I find this shape the best to cut up.

10” round

8” round plus a small loaf.

Grease and line the cake tin

Put all the cake mixture into the tin to fill the shape and smooth the top.

Bake at Gas Mark 2 – 150oC for

10” square  – 2 ½ hours

10” round  –  3 ½ hours

8” round plus a small loaf  (I have never tried this – will suspect around 2 hours).

The above are guides as it does depend on your oven – you need to check earlier.

 

 

 

Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Wrap in several layers of foil to store.

Decorating the cake

It depends on who is coming and whether there are  lots of marzipan & icing lovers on how much I decorate the cake.

Sometimes I just dust the top with icing sugar.

Sometimes I just have marzipan on the top dusted with icing sugar  – but lately I have had marzipan & Royal Icing lovers coming so have decorated the top & used a cake frill around the sides.

 

Marzipan

Marzipan is a paste made from ground almonds, honey or sugar & egg white.

It is thought that it originated in China and then came to the Middle East and from there it came to some parts of Western Europe through Spain & Portugal and to Eastern Europe from Turkey.

The old name in English is marchpane and the Polish is marcepan and the name appears to come from Italy where it was known as panis martius or marzapane  which means March Bread but why March Bread – I am not sure!

It was certainly being used in the 15th century in Europe.

Preparing the cake for marzipan

Brush the surface of the cake with warmed apricot jam.

I usually make my own marzipan but of course you can buy ready made marzipan.

If you are going to ice the cake as well then allow 1 week for the marzipan to harden so the nut oils do not discolour the icing (If you know it will be eaten quickly this is not really a problem).

Ingredients per egg white

1 egg white

75g ground almonds

40g icing sugar

40g caster sugar

1 -2 drops of almond essence

I usually do a 3 egg white amount of marzipan

Method

In a bowl mix the ground almond, icing sugar and caster sugar.

Lightly beat the egg white & add the almond essence.

Add the egg white mixture to the dry ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon until you get a unified mass of marzipan.

You want a mixture that you can roll out – you may have to add more icing sugar to achieve this.

You need to dust a board with icing sugar to roll out the marzipan easily.

Royal Icing

This icing uses egg whites and give a firm icing good for doing fancy decorations (which I do not do!).

Using sugar to make icing  was a sign of wealth & power and this became very popular in Victorian times.

It was used on Queen Victoria’s wedding cake in 1840 and so got the name Royal.

You can ice right up to the last minute but it does take around a week for the icing to fully harden.

Ingredients per egg white

1 egg white

300g icing sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon ( this is optional but I usually use it)

If just doing the top of the cake I would use 2 egg whites.

Note

You can buy powdered Royal icing which is icing sugar & dried egg white and you just add water or water & lemon juice. (I have used it but have used fresh egg whites as well!)

Method

Lightly beat the egg whites and then mix in the lemon juice.

Add the icing sugar a few tablespoons at a time and keep mixing until you have have the icing thick enough to work with.

Spread the icing on top of the marzipan using a small spatula & have a mug of hot water at hand to dip the spatula in.

I do not do any fancy icing – just random peaks – also achieved using a spatula.

 

Some new Christmas cake decorations bought recently

 

 

 

 

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Tea Soaked Fruit Cake

This cake recipe is one I came across recently and I like it because it uses tea – a drink well loved in Poland.

It is similar to a keks which is usually made in a loaf tin but I like to make this one in a round tin.

The recipe uses 8 tea bags and I think Earl Grey,  Lady Grey & Empress Grey tea bags are really good. (If you do not have tea bags then use 8 teaspoons of loose tea, but have it in a muslin bag as you do not want the tea leaves in the cake.)

I have used dried fruits consisting just of currants, raisins, sultanas & peel.

You could make it more Polish by using a bakalie mixture which also has chopped dates, figs & prunes, however I would not add nuts – or if you want to use them – add them after the overnight soaking.

Ingredients

500g mixed dried fruit

8 tea bags (Earl Grey, Lady Grey or Empress Grey)

300ml boiling water

500g self-raising flour

325g butter or block margarine

1 teaspoon mixed spice

pinch of salt

5 eggs

Method

Place the teabags in a large bowl and add the boiling water and stir to make a very strong tea.

Add the dried fruit and stir well.

Leave the fruit to soak overnight.

 

Pre-heat your oven to GM 3 ,  150°C.

Grease and line a 23cm loose bottom or a spring-form tin.

Place the flour and butter or margarine into a large bowl and use your finger tips to rub in the fat until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

In a bowl mix the sugar, salt & mixed spice thoroughly.

Add the sugar mixture to the flour & butter mixture and stir well.

Add the eggs and the soaked fruit and all the remaining liquid and stir well.

 

Pour the mixture into the baking tin and level the top.

Bake in the  oven for 1 hour 40 minutes.

Check after an hour and place a piece of foil or greaseproof  paper on the top if it is beginning to burn.

Check to see if the cake is done with a cake tester or skewer.

NoteThis cake is large and you run the risk of having it underdone in the middle – make sure it is cooked in the middle when testing.

Leave to cool in the tin.

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Served on tea plates – Greenway  Hostess – design by John Russell, 1960 – 1979.

Smaller Sized Cake

This cake is large so I thought I would have a go at making a smaller version.

There are 5 eggs in the original recipe so I  decided to do a 3 egg version.

To make it more Polish, I used a bakalie mixture which had chopped dates, figs, peel & prunes as well as the currants, raisins & sultanas.

Ingredients

300g bakalie or dried mixed fruit

5 tea bags (Earl Grey, Lady Grey or Empress Grey)

200ml boiling water

300g self-raising flour

200g butter or block margarine

1 teaspoon mixed spice

pinch of salt

3 eggs

 

Method

As above – using a 20cm tin.

Bake for around 1 hour 20 minutes – checking after 50 minutes and covering if necessary with a piece of greaseproof paper to stop the top burning.

Note

Maybe because of the different dried fruits I thought it came out drier than the large one & I served it sliced with some butter.

However I have found that if you wrap the cake in aluminium foil for a day or two – it improves – becoming  more moist.

 

Served on tea plates – La prune – by Jet for Ter Steege in The Netherlands.

Mazurek – Using Yeast Dough

I came across this recipe for  a yeast dough mazurek in this little recipe book and was very intrigued by the method which is quite different from the usual yeast doughs and thought I would give it a go!

It turned out very well.

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Ingredients

450g plain flour

100g granulated sugar

200g butter or block margarine

50g fresh yeast or 25g of dried yeast

190 ml of milk

3 eggs

200g of bakalie (dried fruits including currants, raisins, peel, figs, dates, prunes etc)

Method

Warm the milk to hand heat and mix in the yeast.

Melt the butter on a gently heat.

In a bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar until they are light and fluffy.

Add the melted butter.

Add the milk and yeast mixture and mix thoroughly.

Leave in a warm place for 8 hours!

Grease and line a large baking tray 33cm x 24cm

Pre-heat the oven to GM5 – 190°C

Mix the bakalie(dried fruits) with the flour.

Mix the flour and fruits with the yeast mixture.

 

Place the dough into the tin – spreading it out evenly.

Place the dough onto the tray and put in the oven.

Bake for around 25 – 30 minutes.

Prick the surface of the cake with a fork in several places.

Leave it to cool in the tin for a while and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool.

Pour the hot chocolate topping over the top.

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Topping Ingredients

50g butter

30g of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons of cocoa

2 – 3 tablespoons of water

Note

You could double this amount if you want to it to cover all over and be a bit thicker.

Method

In a small saucepan gently melt the butter and sugar .

Add the cocoa and water and mix it till it is all blended together.

 

Note

You can decorate the top with dried fruit and nuts – you would really need to do double the topping ingredients for this,

 

 

Served on Royal Doulton – Counterpoint  – 1973 – 1987