Black Forest Christmas Cake
Christmas cake isn’t as popular with the younger generation, most of my friends say they don’t like Christmas cake. I am, massively misguidedly, including myself in that ‘younger generation’. At some point I will have to re-categorise myself as middle aged but I’m not ready for that yet. Last time I started work in an office I tried to be all pally with the recent graduates. One of the gang. One of the cool folk. I think pretty quickly their glazed expressions meeting my hilarious stories of how my baby unplugged the stereo at baby sensory put paid to my notions of being young. Or hip. Or of having much of a life at all. They wouldn’t be baking Christmas cake, they’re out in cool bars with cool people having cool fun. Although I expect they don’t say cool. Although the whole home-spun geek chic is apparently cool now so maybe just maybe I can rely on that to fit right in with the cool kids? Anyway, cool or not, I’m not one to blow my own festive trumpet, well I am, but everyone who has tried my chocolate cherry Christmas cake has enjoyed it. That or they are too scared of me to tell me the truth, but nobody has gagged on it and most people have asked for seconds, which I always take to be a good sign.
It’s not so different from a traditional Christmas cake as to be crazy, I’m not a Christmas purist as such, but there’s some variations on a theme too far. Sticky toffee Christmas pudding? No. Ginger & soy glazed turkey? No. This is a good solid fruit cake, it’s lots of dried fruit soaked in booze but it has the addition of chocolate and cherries which just seems to give it a more moist and moreish flavour.
I believe that it is loosely based on an Italian wedding cake. Not having actually ever been to Italy let alone an Italian wedding I’ll have to bow to greater wisdom than my own on that. I first saw the recipe in a Christmas issue of the long defunct Easy Living Magazine and have adapted it over the years.
I normally decorate it very simply – just a layer of marzipan and clean white fondant icing over the top and some fondant stars. Although I must admit that last year I went a bit mad in the kitsch section of my local cake decorating store and it looked as if Christmas 1974 had thrown up on it. What can I say, galloping golden babycham-esque deer and miniature snow frosted pine trees excited me muchly. Then I doused the whole lot with a lot of edible glitter.
Because I’m not exactly an organised blogger (HA!) I don’t seem to have any photos I have taken of previous Christmas cakes finished. But you’re presumably not a complete and utter retard and will have, at some point in your years on planet Earth, seen a Christmas cake. Make it look like one of them.
I usually make the cake mid-late November and it sort of matures. Actually I’m not convinced that’s not actually a myth, one year I made it the week before Christmas and it tasted the absolute same. To me it makes sense to make it and shove it out of the way, before the unstoppable beast that is Christmas gains momentum, on a quiet November afternoon. Then it’s one less thing to do when you are trying to sort all the Christmas shopping, parties etc etc etc. Oh and you don’t need to keep dousing this with booze. Once it’s cooked it’s cooked.
A note on the shopping for the ingredients. The dried sour cherries and blueberries aren’t stocked everywhere. Waitrose definitely have them although helpfully not with the baking ingredients. It is somewhat like an episode of the Crystal Maze trying to track them down in store. Do not give up my intrepid friend, the path to true cake nirvana is never smooth. *rum fumes from the fruit soaking next to me clearly getting to me*. The sour cherries were with the salted peanuts but the blueberries were deemed healthy so were with the ‘if you buy these lentils you will live longer’ section. Go figure. Order online, save yourself the ball ache.
My disclaimer with Christmas Cake is that you will make it, give away loads to various greedy relatives, stuff yourself silly with it in the week after Christmas, then at some point in January lob it in the bin in an ill-founded ‘this year I will not eat cake’ resolution. You will then later in January when it’s freezing, light for only about an hour each day and you’ve got a stinking cold, really really regret it because a piece of this cake would definitely help. I would say don’t do that, but it’s as much a part of Christmas as buying 100 Christmas cards then realising you bought 100 already in the January sales for the 10th year in a row and now have enough cards to send to pretty much everyone you’ve ever spoken to.
100g dried sour cherries
100g dried blueberries
200g glace cherries
175g dark chocolate (break up into chunks)
200g unsalted butter
125g light brown sugar
250ml booze. I have used rum this year, in the past I’ve used sherry, you could use brandy too
4 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
1tsp vanilla extract
175g dark chocolate chips
200g plain flour
2tbsp self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
- Put all of the dried fruit in a large saucepan, add whatever booze you’re using and leave for a couple of hours (or overnight) to soak in.
- Add the sugar, chocolate, butter to the pan and heat over a low heat until it’s all melted – simmer for about 5 minutes stirring frequently for about 5 minutes.
- Set aside to cool completely.
- Heat oven to 150c – grease a 20cm/8inch square cake tin and line base and sides with a double layer of baking paper – extend it above tin
- Put the cooled fruit mixture in a mixing bowl and add beaten eggs, orange zest, vanilla, chocolate chips and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the flours, bicarb of soda and salt to the bowl and mix.
- Pour into the tin and bake for an hour. Cover the top of the cake and bake for another 1-1.5 hours – until firm and a skewer comes out clean.
- Cool it in the tin then wrap in foil and then wrap in cling flim until you’re ready to ice.
3tbsp apricot jam
2 x 500g packs of white fondant icing
1 . Warm the jam in the microwave with a tbsp of water and brush over the cake. Roll out the marzipan and cover the cake with that. Then brush with water and top with rolled out fondant icing. Then decorate how you see fit!