Traditional Christmas cake
The last Sunday before Advent, or ‘Stir-up Sunday’ as it’s officially known, is when the festive season really starts in my house and has always been when I bake up my grandmother-in-law (Lala’s) Christmas cake ready for the month ahead. This famous day – as named and created for the Victorians by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband – is a real family occasion for us, and is when it really starts to feel like Christmas is just around the corner. Traditionally, I like to give everyone the opportunity to help mix the cake and also make a wish for a happy and healthy year to come. Lala’s wartime recipe is the inspiration behind my own Christmas cake recipe below, and I have added naturally coloured glacé cherries and almonds for an extra wellbeing touch. If you like, you can mix the dried fruit ingredients together first and leave to soak overnight in 70mls earl grey tea (and/or a slug of brandy!).
- Dried fruit is high in calcium, beta carotene, vitamin E, niacin, iron and magnesium
- Almonds are rich in skin-saving vitamin E
- A gluten-free flour can be used if needed
- 275g self-raising flour (spelt flour is a good option)
- 2 tbsp mixed spice
- Pinch of salt
- 225g softened salted butter (or olive oil if dairy free)
- 175g soft dark brown (or Muscovado) sugar
- 110g sultanas
- 110g currants
- 500g raisins
- 110g naturally coloured glacé cherries, quartered
- 110g roughly chopped plain almonds
- 1 tbsp dark (Seville) marmalade
- 3 medium organic eggs
- 50ml whole milk or milk alternative
- 70ml black earl grey tea/slug of brandy (both optional for the pre-soaking of dried fruit)
- Mix the flour, spices, salt and sugar together and rub in the softened butter using your fingertips (or mixer). Add the dried fruit and nuts and mix well. Then add the marmalade, beaten eggs and lastly the milk. I use a spatula to mix at this stage and scrape the bowl.
- Tip the mixture into a buttered 25cm cake tin (spring-loaded for easy removal), smooth the top and bake for approx. 1.5 -2.0 hours at 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3. If the top looks as if it might burn, cover with a piece of foil. To test if your cake is done, insert a sharp knife or skewer – it should come out clean with no uncooked cake mixture attached. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- To further enrich your Christmas cake, ‘feed’ with a little brandy by storing upside-down in a cake tin and piercing the flat base with a metal skewer. Use a teaspoon to drizzle in a little brandy once a week in the run-up to Christmas.