Thursday, 26 November 2009


“At Christmas play and make good cheer, For Christmas comes but once a year” - Thomas Tusser

This year has flown by and it is hard to believe that in less than four weeks it will be Christmas. The older we get the faster time seems to go by and the years seem like the months of childhood existence. Time is such a relative quantity and its elasticity never seems to surprise me, especially the older I get. Still, I am grateful for many special moments when I can concentrate on the passage of time and as I drink in each second, I am consciously aware of it, savouring its passing, bottling it like a preserve, so I can revel in its sweetness not only in the present but also in the future, when it has become a long-past memory.

Seeing Christmas is approaching fast, this weekend is pretty much the last chance to make your Christmas cake, giving you enough time to let it mature and be ritually soaked in brandy at appropriate intervals until Christmas! Here is a favourite recipe:

Ingredients Cake

500 g sultanas
500 g currants
500 g raisins
250 g pitted dessert prunes
250 g pitted dates
125 g glacé figs
125 g glacé ginger
125 g candied peel
500 g butter
2 cups of brown sugar firmly packed
10 eggs
3 cups plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup brandy

Brandy caramel

2 tablespoons white sugar
30 g butter (molten and hot)
1/2 cup brandy (warmed)

Fondant icing
1 egg white
500 g icing sugar
60 g liquid glucose
Desired favouring and colouring

Marzipan paste and apricot jam


Have butter and eggs at room temperature. Place sultanas, currants and peel in a very large basin or plastic dish. Chop raisins, prunes, dates, figs and ginger the same size as the sultanas and add to the basin. Stir in the brandy caramel mixture. In another basin, beat the butter until soft, add the sifted sugar, beat only until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each egg into mixture well before adding the next one. Add this butter/sugar/egg mixture to the fruits, mixing well with the hand to break up large clumps of fruit. Mix in the sifted flours well.

Line a deep 25 cm square or 28 cm round cake tin with one sheet of brown paper and then three sheets of greaseproof paper, bringing paper 5 cm above the edge of the tin. Bake in a slow oven (175˚C) for 2 hours and then at 150˚C for 3 hours, or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

When cooked, remove from the oven, brush the brandy over the top cover securely with aluminium foil and leave to cool completely. Remove cake from tin, leaving the paper intact around it.. Wrap the cake tightly in cling food wrap and store in an airtight tin. The cake will keep for three months if stored correctly. It may need a little brandy brushed over the top periodically.

When ready to serve, brush the cake all round with warmed apricot jam, ensuring all sides are covered well. Roll the marzipan to about 3 mm thickness and cover the cake completely, neatening up joins so that it presents a smooth, flawless surface. Beat some egg white and cover the almond paste brushing all surfaces well. Make the fondant icing by mixing all ingredients well and rolling out to 5 mm thickness. Cover the cake, neatening up the joints once again by coating the hand with icing sugar and smoothing the surfaces.

Decorate as desired.


  1. Oh, my!!! You have Rachel Field's "Something told the wild geese" in your video bar!!!! This is one of my all time favorites! In fact, I make my ESL kids memorize it!
    Piercing poem... Visually and melodically stunning!

  2. I saw this comment in my Reader and had to head over here to see the video of "Something Told the Wild Geese." This reminded me that I had sung this poem set to music while in high school. Some things you just never forget. Beautiful.

  3. I love fruit cake, but this sounds like too much work for me. I'll buy one at the market, nicholas!