Christmas cake

Christmas cake

By
From
The Tivoli Road Baker
Makes
one 15 cm round cake
Photographer
Bonnie Savage and Alan Benson

When I worked at Bourke Street Bakery we made a beautiful Christmas cake. I’ve adapted it slightly after being given the recipe by then-Bourke Street pastry chef, Nadine Ingram. Nadine now owns Flour & Stone in Sydney, a lovely bakery turning out excellent pastries, cakes and savoury food. At Tivoli Road we include pistachios and chocolate, and use our homemade marmalade. This cake has a beautiful marzipan flavour that develops over time, and the bitter dark chocolate brings the nuts and fruit together without being overpowering or too sweet. We cook this cake several months in advance and feed it with brandy weekly until Christmas, producing a rich, boozy cake.

Fruit soak

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
20g water
20g caster sugar
40g sultanas
35g currants
70g raisins
60g dried figs, quartered
35g prunes, pitted and quartered
25g see method for ingredients
35ml brandy
35ml sherry

Method

  1. To make the fruit soak, heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Combine all the other ingredients in a large container with a lid, then pour over the sugar syrup and stir well until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Leave the fruit to soak, covered, at room temperature for at least a week and up to two months. Stir the mixture through occasionally for the first few days to thoroughly distribute the liquid – you want it soaked through the fruit, not settled at the bottom of the container. The longer you leave it, the more the flavour will develop.

Cake

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
65g unsalted butt
55g soft brown sugar
20g treacle, use honey if unavailable
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1 tablespoon marmalade
55g plain flour
1 tablespoon almond meal
15g pistachios
15g almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg, freshly grated
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground clove
pinch ground ginger
40g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
brandy

Method

  1. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 140°C (280°F). Lightly grease a 13 cm (5 in) round cake tin and line it with baking paper.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, gently cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the treacle and honey, and continue to beat for another 2–3 minutes, until fully incorporated.
  3. Gradually add the eggs in three batches, ensuring that each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Work very slowly to ensure that the mixture doesn’t curdle at this stage; if you notice it starting to split, add a small amount of plain (all-purpose) flour to bring it back together. Continue to beat for about 10 minutes, until pale and light.
  4. Take the bowl off the stand mixer and use a spatula to fold the fruit soak and marmalade through the mixture. Add the plain flour, almond meal, pistachios, almonds, spices and chocolate and mix until combined and evenly distributed. It will become a thick, heavy cake batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the tin, then wet your hands and gently flatten the top for a nice finish and an even bake. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, then loosely cover the top with a piece of foil and bake for another 30 minutes, until the cake is firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then invert the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Once cool, wrap the cake in baking paper and then in a layer of foil. Place it in a sealed container and store it in a cool, dark place. After a week, unwrap the cake and use a skewer to make about 20 holes in the top, about two-thirds of the depth of the cake. Brush the top generously with brandy, so that it soaks into the holes and well into the cake – this is called feeding the cake. Feed the cake weekly for 10 weeks, ensuring it is well wrapped in baking paper and foil after each feed. After the last feed, leave the cake for at least a week before eating, although it will last for several months well wrapped in an airtight container, and will continue to mature with age.

Bakery notes

  • You can use almost any nut in this recipe if you don’t have the ones suggested. Make sure you use good quality chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa solids.

    Start soaking the fruit any time from March, in order to have your cake ready for Christmas – the longer it soaks, the better the flavour. We’ve timed the recipe as if you’re making the cake in early October. If you’re making it closer to Christmas, just feed it twice a week, and stop feeding it a week before Christmas so all the alcohol can settle before you cut into the cake. The cake will last for months at room temperature, well wrapped in baking paper and foil and placed in an airtight container.
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