If there is one thing I really admire the British for, it’s their Christmas traditions. They are positively abundant in this country! In my home country, Belgium, we’re not very big on traditions; that is, we do all the big holidays, but not nearly with as much panache and joie de vivre as the British do. In fact we severely lack some heart-warming, succulent recipes like the Christmas Pudding, the Christmas Cake, eggnog, etc. We tend to stick to just oysters and bûche. Boring.
But the British… man, they know how to celebrate the holidays. Holiday themed coffees, centuries-old traditions, Boxing Day… I think this holiday spirit must be one of the reasons I fell in love with this country.
Not only have I never baked a Christmas Cake, I’ve also never eaten one–ever. Shocking, I know! It’s time to rectify that and fill this gap in my culinary experience.
Seeing as I had no previous experience baking such a cake, I turned to the trusted BBC Food website and more or less followed this recipe. I substituted bananas for the eggs: they are an excellent binding ingredient and totally appropriate in a fruit cake.
Clem’s Christmas Cake
For the cake:
350g dried currants
350g dried, chopped apricots
350g dried, chopped pitted prunes
500g self-raising flour
80g black treacle
50g sweetener of your choice
80g golden syrup
250g brown sugar
200ml soya cream
250g vegan margarine or shortening
one orange and one lemon for zesting and juice
brandy, whisky or your preferred alcohol
Roll-out marzipan for the cake covering
For the icing:
300g icing sugar
25ml alcohol of choice
50g vegan margarine or shortening
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Line a round spring form tin with parchment paper, or grease the tin.
2. Bring the syrup, sweetener, treacle, sugar, cream, and if you want some spices, to the boil in a pan.
3. Pour the mixture in a LARGE* mixing bowl. Add the butter and still until melted. Add the lemon and orange zest/extracts and the mashed bananas.
4. Add all of the dried fruit and the flour.**
5. Spoon (or pour) the mixture into your tun and bake for 2 hours, maybe more if a knife doesn’t come out clean of the cake. Resist taking your cake out of the tin until it is completely cooled.
6. Pour some whisky or another sort of alcohol over the cake. Hide it in a cool, dark cupboard for 3 or 4 days, after which we can proceed with the covering and icing.
*I started out with one of my regular mixing bowls, which I always believed to be large. Turns out they won’t do for this cake; you will need a humungous bowl. I kid you not.
** Funny story: I’d forgotten to make a wish as I mixing the batter and fretted about it after popping the cake into the oven. At that point, I realised I’d also forgotten the flour. I quickly whisked the cake out of the oven, poured it back in the bowl, mixed in the flour, made my wish, and put the whole thing back in the tin and into the oven. Sometimes, it’s not such a bad thing being forgetful!
7. Roll out the marzipan (I got mine at Tesco, and it’s vegan!) to make it about 1cm thick. Place it over the top of the cake, making sure that it sticks to it. If you think the marzipan will peel off, just glue it to the cake with some syrup. Cut around the edges to fit the round shape of the cake.
8. For the icing, whisk together the margarine, the icing sugar and the alcohol. I’m using brandy.
9. Cover the cake with small peaks, using an icing bag and a star-shaped form. Dust with icing to finish, if you like. You can see the method performed in the video from the BBC recipe.
You can see the adaptations from the original recipe are minor; basically, I just replaced the eggs.
As always, the cat must first give his seal of approval before one can taste the finished product.
I cannot wait to try this majestic cake. This is my first proper British Christmas and honestly, I’m bursting with anticipation. There is something so wonderfully social and homey about traditional Christmas food; I think that’s the real attraction of Christmas. There’s nothing like a good cake to put aside your worries. So unbutton those jeans and sit back; Christmas is just around the corner.