We know, it’s only October but now is the perfect time to get cracking with that all important Christmas cake. It’s rich, dark, fruity, (maybe a bit boozey) and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it.
When Should I Bake My Cake?
Two or three months before the big day is a great time to bake your cake. This allows plenty of time to ‘feed’ your cake and let all of those delicious flavours mature and firm up. This time allows both the appearance and flavour to improve however, if you have discovered this guide a little later then it’s still fine to go ahead and bake but your result will probably have less of a kick.
It’s a good idea to allow a whole day to devote to your Christmas showstopper, these things just cannot be rushed and you don’t want to miss out any of the all important steps. Plus, baking takes around 4 to 5 hours, which allows you plenty of time to clear up and enjoy a cuppa in between.
The classic Christmas cake is made ahead of the big day allowing time for it to mature. We are sharing a wonderful Christmas cake recipe from the Queen of Cakes which says it can be stored for up to three months. How much brandy you add in that time is entirely up to you.
350g/12oz natural glacé cherries, halved, rinsed, and thoroughly dried
500g/1lb 2oz currants
150ml/¼pt brandy, plus extra for feeding
2 oranges, zest only
250g/9oz butter, softened
250g/9oz light muscovado sugar
4 free-range eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp black treacle
75g/3oz blanched almonds, chopped
250g/9oz plain flour
1½ tsp mixed spice
about 3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
675g/1lb 8oz marzipan
You can make the cake up to three months before Christmas.
Place all the dried fruit, including the cherries, into a large mixing bowl, pour over the brandy and stir in the orange zest. Cover with clingfilm and leave to soak for three days, stirring daily.
Grease and line a 23cm/9in deep, round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1.
Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a very large bowl and beat well. Add the flour and ground spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 4-4½ hours, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after two hours, and if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little extra brandy. Allow the cake to cool completely.
Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place.
Your cake will taste even more delicious if you feed it every week or two with a tablespoon of your chosen spirit. Don’t remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist and remember to always seal it back up again to keep the lovely moisture in. Little and often is key to maturing your cake.
The cake should be covered with marzipan about a week before Christmas.
Stand the cake upside down, flat side uppermost, on a cake board which is 5cm/2in larger than the size of the cake.
Brush the sides and the top of the cake with the warm apricot jam.
Liberally dust a work surface with icing sugar and then roll out the marzipan to about 5cm/2in larger than the surface of the cake. Keep moving the marzipan as you roll, checking that it is not sticking to the work surface. Dust the work surface with more icing sugar as necessary.
Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake using a rolling pin. Gently level and smooth the top of the paste with the rolling pin, then ease the marzipan down the sides of the cake, smoothing it at the same time. If you are careful, you should be able to cover the cake with no excess marzipan to trim but, if necessary, neatly trim excess marzipan from the base of the cake with a small sharp knife.
Cover the cake loosely with baking parchment and leave for a few days while the marzipan dries out.
Decorating Your Cake
Whilst Mary Berry chooses to decorate her Christmas cakes with Royal Icing, how about using fondant icing. You can buy it ready made, it’s easy to handle, available in a variety of colours and the possibilities are endless. This means that you can create almost any design or theme that you wish. You can get all of the family involved to make their mark and it’s a really fun and festive way to lead up to the big day.
If you have been inspired by this blog to have a go at making your own Christmas cake this year you can browse our full range of Christmas Cake Decorations here, we’ve got everything from cutters and ribbons to cake boards, boxes and more.