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Bia Sasta

The ever changing nature of Christmas cakes!

Wednesday, 18th November, 2020 5:39pm

For the last 30 years I’ve baked Christmas cakes and I use the same recipe every year. It is based on a recipe of one of my favourite cookbook writers, Delia Smith.

Of course, over the years it has changed slightly but the core is always the same. Now, for the last two years, Mr T isn’t happy with the cake. Too dense – flavour nice just too dense.

You’d be forgiven for calling him Paul Hollywood! He even suggested I ask his sister Breda for tips. I am mad about Mr T’s sisters – Eileen and Breda (they are awesome) but I am also not going to ask them.

Pure pride prevents me from doing so. But in the pursuit of happiness for Mr T, I did some research into recipes and discovered that over the years, recipes have changed a lot.

It seems I missed the boat when chefs and cooks decided to reduce the fruit content in the fruit cake and are using different methods of preparing the fruit.

Nigella Lawson cooks the fruit quickly in brandy while Neven Maguire chops his fruit. Nigel Slater uses more sultanas than raisins and currants (not soaking the fruit) while Mary Berry believes in the currants so much that it makes up half of all fruit content. Actually, Mary’s recipe is quite close to the one I normally make.

So this year I have changed the recipe and method. I made two cakes – in both cakes, I left the currants out completely and added only a bit of the candied peel.

In one I stewed the fruit as Nigella Lawson recommends while in the other I chopped the fruit before adding to the mix. And in both cakes I have reduced the fruit almost by half. Baking took less than the normal four hours and both cakes felt lighter and are now maturing nicely.

I will keep you posted when I start decorating them. Doing a bit of research into the history of the Christmas cake, it seems that it started as a plum porridge that was served on Christmas Eve.

Over the years, porridge was replaced by flour, eggs and butter and when ovens became part of kitchens, cooks started to bake it and add spices.

These exotic spices represented the gifts of three wise kings and et voila, your Christmas cake was born.

Despite its long existence (first mentioned in 16th century), most people seem to dislike the fruit cake. I made my friend Caz’s wedding cake and only the top and smallest layer was allowed to be a fruit cake for the great aunties.

In the US you even find the Great Fruitcake Toss in Colorado – if you don’t have a cake you can get one for a mere $0.25.

I don’t eat the fruit cake either but I love making it as part of the Christmas preparations. And thankfully, Mr T loves it – if it’s not too dense.

Fingers crossed for this year – I’ll keep you posted!

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