Christmas is nearly upon us and if, like me, you haven't managed to bake your Christmas cake yet, then this recipe is quick, super easy and can be made the day before Christmas, if needs be, as it can be eaten straight away.
It doesn't need the usual 'feeding' of alcohol a few weeks before to mature it.
I think it will be a welcome alternative to the traditional Christmas cake, which can be very rich and not to everyone's liking, whilst still retaining the festive feeling with the use of cranberries and hazelnuts.
I made this completely by hand, no electric mixers, just to show you do not need fancy equipment to make a good cake! Of course, if you have a mixer then feel free to use it.
~ Ingredients ~
200g Softened Butter
100g Raisins or Sultanas
200g Glace Cherries Halved
100g Dried Cranberries
200g Frozen or Fresh Cranberries
Juice & Grated Rind Of 1 Orange
50ml Sherry, Brandy or Rum
250 Light Brown Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
4 Large Eggs
200g Self Raising Flour
100g Ground Almonds
100g Chopped Hazelnuts
1 tbsp. Mixed Spice
Pre heat the oven to 140 degrees fan, or 160 degrees conventional.
Grease and line a 20cm cake tin (round or square) with greaseproof paper so that it comes 3cm above the top of the tin.
~ Method ~
Put the raisins or sultanas, cherries, cranberries (both kinds), orange rind and juice and sherry into a small pan. Bring to the boil the simmer for a few minutes until the cranberries have softened a little and most of the liquid has evaporated away.
Remove from the heat and put to one side to cool off.
Next, put the sugar, butter and vanilla extract into a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon (or hand mixer) until they are combined and light and fluffy.
Next, add the eggs, flour, almonds, hazelnuts and mixed spice and mix together well until everything is combined.
Now add the soaked fruit, including any juices that are left in the pan and mix together again until the fruit is evenly distributed.
Pour the cake mixture into your prepared cake tin and level off the top with a spatula, making sure the mixture is right into the corners and properly against the sides of the tin.
Bake for approx 1 hr 30 mins.
This will vary as everyone's oven temperature is slightly different, my cake took nearly 2 hrs to bake!
Once the time is up take a skewer and push it into the cake in a few different places, if it comes out clean then your cake is ready, if not then it needs to be put back into the oven for a little longer.
I usually do 10 minute checking 'slots' if my cake needs extra baking, just keep an eye on it.
Once baked, leave it in the tin for 15 mins or so to cool off a little in there first, then turn it out onto a wire rack and remove the greaseproof paper, which should come off easily.
I find removing the greaseproof paper while the cake is still warm much better, as it can stick a little sometimes if you leave it till it has cooled completely.
~ Decorating ~
It's now totally up to you how you decorate your cake.
This year I have been having more of a handmade Christmas theme, both in my gifts and wrapping, and using thrifty materials and my craft skills to give more of a unique and personalised touch to presents, so I thought I would continue this theme through to my cake decoration.
I decided to make the cake into a Christmas gift parcel, with embellished 'brown paper' icing and tied with a real ribbon decoration.
Its super easy to do and really requires very little skill, if you can use a cookie cutter and tie a bow then you can make this!!
To decorate your cake the same as mine you will need ~
2 x packs of Renshaw ready to roll icing in 'Teddy Bear Brown' and 'White'
2 x 1 metre packs of cake ribbon (ordinary ribbon will do though) in the pattern of your choice.
Small & Medium Star Cookie Cutter
Cake Board or Cake Stand
Firstly heat up 2-3 table spoons of apricot jam, just enough so it is runny, then using brush paint the whole of your cake with the jam, everywhere you want your icing to stick to it.
Next, dust your work surface with a little icing sugar, and roll out the brown icing, making sure it is large enough to over the whole cake, including the sides.
Once your icing is large enough, carefully take it up over your rolling pin and lay it gently over your cake, pressing it down gently, but firmly all over, so it makes contact with the apricot jam and sticks well to your cake.
Press down the sides, but try to make it slightly uneven here, so that it looks a little like a real parcel wrapped in paper.
Once you are satisfied that the cake is covered properly and with the finish, take a sharp knife and trim away the edges of icing that meet with the cake board or cake stand.
As the icing is brown and icing sugar is white, there will be some icing sugar smudges on your brown icing, these can be easily removed by taking a piece of slightly damp kitchen paper and very gently wiping over the whole cake ~ it may take a couple of passes to remove all the icing sugar, depending on how much is on there, but it will come off.
Allow to dry.
Next, take your ribbon and 'wrap' your parcel using 2 separate lengths, securing the ribbon under your cake.
I used a 'U' shaped piece of wire pushed through the ribbon into the bottom of the cake to secure both pieces of ribbon, BUT make sure these are removed after you start to cut and serve the cake.
Using some more ribbon, run a length around the base of your cake too, securing both ends with a small 'U' shaped wire again.
I have hand sewn the button bow, using the remainder of the ribbon, and secured it to the cake ribbon using a very small blob of UHU glue.
These bows are very simple and easy to make, but you can purchase similar bows already made.
If however, you want to make your own, then a blog post tutorial will be coming shortly, but in the meantime, an Instagram tutorial is available now on my Instagram page ~ Redfox_Diaries, if you want to take a look.
Next, roll out your white icing, to approx. 1-2mm thick and cut out around 5-6 different sizes of star shapes.
Arrange the stars on the cake until you are happy with the design.
Next, wet the back of each star a little water, using a small brush, so the icing becomes a little bit sticky and press it gently back onto the 'brown paper' icing.
Once this has dried this will bond the two icings together.
Then you are finished!
Hopefully you will all feel confident enough to have a go at baking this cake, I am certainly no professional baker and only do what I call 'proper' icing of cakes once a year at Christmas so am not terribly experienced in it, but this design is so very simple everyone can have a go and remember, it's homemade so it doesn't need to look totally pristine!