Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Nigella's one-pan Christmas cake

I am making home-made Christmas food as presents for my friends and colleagues this year, and have things well underway. I am really enjoying the process of making these gifts, partly because making Christmas treats is steeped in tradition and brings back fond memories, and partly because I am applying my creative energies into making these treats unique.

One of the items that I have made for my Christmas goodie boxes is miniature fruit cakes. The recipe, from the December-January edition of Delicious magazine, is by Nigella Lawson. It was perfect for my purposes because it does not require you to steep the fruit for 6 months before-hand in a veritable vat of alcohol. Instead, Nigella uses the stovetop heat to infuse dried fruits with that lovely, aromatic alcoholic flavour that is essential for fruit cake.

If you forgot to steep your fruit for a home-made Christmas cake this year, never fear - Nigella's great no-fuss, last minute recipe is as follows:

2 1/4 cup sultanas
1 1/3 cup raisins
1 cup currants
(I substituted the currants, raisins and orange and lemon zest for 2 cups of dried mixed fruit)
1/3 cup chopped glace cherries
180g butter (diced)
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 cup chestnut puree (I used apple puree - I've no idea what difference this made to the flavour, but the end result tasted fine to me)
1/2 cup rum
Juice and zest of 1 orange (see my comment above re the zest)
Zest of 1 lemon
3 beaten eggs
2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I didn't have any, so I just added more cinnamon)

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius, and grease and line a 20cm round cake tin with a double layer of baking paper that pokes at least 5cm above the top edge of the tin.

Combine the dried and glace fruits, zests, butter, sugar, puree, rum and orange juice in a large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the butter has melted, bring the mixture to a simmer and then simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly to ensure that the fruit doesn't burn onto the pan. Remove the fruit from the stove and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Stir the eggs, flour, baking powder and spices into the fruit until just combined, then pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Nigella recommends wrapping a strip of brown paper twice the height of the tin around the outside of the tin to keep the cake moist. Place the cake into the oven, and bake for 1 3/4- 2 hours. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Because I thought that it would be fun (it was), and because I seem to like creating extra work for myself (it was!), I decided to make miniature fruit cakes in green patty pans for my goodie boxes. These cakes are pictured at the top of this post, and took about 40 minutes to bake. Once cooled, I spread the top of each of these cakes with melted and sieved apricot jam, and topped each one with a round of rolled white ready-made fondant. Finally, with my creative juices really flowing, I used food colouring pens from my excursion to Jane Asher's Sugarcraft shop in London to draw Christmas-themed decals on the top of each cake. (Thanks to Fanny from Foodbeam for her post on the Sugarcraft shop just before my trip to the UK last year - I would never have discovered this little gem without her.)

There was, as to be expected, about half of the batter left over after I had filled 24 patty pans, so I used the rest to make a small, flattish larger cake for myself. That version of the cake is pictured at the bottom of this post, and I baked it for about an hour.

This post is also my entry in the Festive Food Fair, being hosted by Anna of Morsels and Musings. This is a blogging event of global festive food of all types, and will be great fun - thanks for organising this Anna. (Postscript - The Festive Food Fair round up is available here - take a peek at the wonderful festive recipes from around the globe!)


Laurie Constantino said...

I love your miniature fruitcakes - they are adorable! You have very lucky friends to be getting these.

Cakelaw said...

Thanks Laurie - these were my favourite out of the goodie boxes for this year, but everyone else liked the cookies or the rum balls best!