baking/ celebration/ traditions and rituals

Christmas Cake with Spelt Flour

Christmas Cake recipe - sweetpea darlingheart

Today I was baking our christmas cakes, something I do every year, either to share with family or to give away as gifts. The oldies in my family especially love a piece of christmas cake, so I always make sure to bake an extra one as a present for my Nana and Poppa.

Fruit cakes are classic and steeped in tradition, I remember a slice of dark fruit cake being served to me on one of my first ever plane trips when I was 5, it came in it’s own special packet and was to keep me going for the rest of the trip; as well as every wedding of my childhood where you were given a little slice in a paper envelope to take home. Fruit cakes are comforting and sustaining, they can keep you going through thick and thin, you could even say they have medicinal properties, possibly depending on your vintage and how much brandy you have doused them in. At the end of a long Christmas day, a little slice with a cup of tea can be just what you need to get you through.

Baking for Christmas is a perfect time to get a bit nostalgic. Pop on some ol’ time music, maybe some Ella Fitzgerald or a bit of Louis. And see if you can add a little shuffle in your step. Christmas baking isn’t something to be hurried, it’s something to be enjoyed. Give yourself a good amount of time and try and give your space a little bit of glow. Most of all, don’t feel in a rush, you don’t want to miss what this time is really all about.

Christmas ornaments

Today, smelling the fruit cakes baking, it made me think of the stories of days long before me, when treats were scarce and cake or fruit was a real luxury. My grandparents lived through the depression when everything was rationed. They tell stories of having a banana as a present, and of my great-grandfather (the local baker) slipping an extra loaf of bread to families who were really in need. Celebrations were simple and having a really good meal was celebration enough. Christmas lunch was something the kids dreamt about all year, a time when the family would come together and feel lucky for what they had.

I’m so blessed to live in these modern times with all of their freedoms, and not have to worry about how to feed my children. So much for FOMO, I like to use this time to remember how lucky we really are. This recipe is for my grandparents, true enthusiasts of a good fruit cake. I don’t know if it makes them think of those Christmases of long ago but I do know they appreciate having a slice, in a special tin, in the cupboard.

sweetpea darlingheart christmas cake recipe

Pop on some old tunes and break out the brandy. Make sure you’re not in a rush as a good fruit cake needs to bake long and slow.

Christmas Cake with Spelt Flour

This cake is based on a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion’. As is my way, I often play around with different ingredients for our Christmas cakes. Traditionally for the bulk of the fruit you would use 1/3 sultanas, 1/3 raisins and 1/3 currants, but I often like to add in some cranberries or dried cherries. You can also substitute the apricots for dried figs; but I do always make sure to include the prunes. When choosing your dried fruit try to buy unsulfured fruit and if you can buy organic your cake will be all the better. The addition of mixed peel is always controversial in fruit cake, I prefer mine without but if you absolutely love it then add in around 60g to the mix.

810g of your favourite small, round dried fruit
120g dried apricots or figs, sliced
60g prunes, stoned and chopped
140ml brandy
250g soft unsalted butter
225g spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
250g dark brown sugar, or coconut sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon treacle or molasses

Assemble your dried fruit in a large glass or ceramic bowl and pour over 100ml of brandy. Allow to soak overnight.

The following day, preheat your oven to 150 degrees C. Grease a 22cm round cake tin, or two 17cm round cake tins, and line with two layers of baking paper.

In a medium bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder and spices, and give a little stir.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs into the mixture one at a time, alternating with a little of the flour mix. If it looks like it is curdling don’t despair, just add a little more flour mixture. Keep going until all of the eggs and flour have been added, and the mixture is smooth. Then add in all of the fruit and brandy mixture as well as the treacle or molasses and mix until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and smooth out the tops. You can decorate the top with whole almonds or pecans if you like.

Bake the cakes low down in the oven for anywhere between 2 and 3 hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. I suggest having a peek a bit before the 2 hour mark to check that they aren’t browning too much on top, if they are and the middle isn’t yet fully cooked, then scrunch up a piece of baking paper and put on top, and top that with a scrunched up piece of aluminium foil. You can also reduce the heat down to 110 degrees C and check again in 15 minutes. It is not an exact science, it is more of a ‘go as you feel’ approach, and a very good reason to not be in a rush!

Once the cakes are out of the oven, pour over the remaining brandy : listen to it sizzle, and breathe in a bit of Christmas. Let the cakes cool completely in their tins before removing them. Wrap the cakes in a couple of layers of baking paper and aluminium foil and pop them into an airtight tin ready for eating on Christmas Day.

You can make these cakes several weeks in advance or right before Christmas. Either way they will be delicious. And they keep very well, so a little morsel can be nibbled here and there, for several weeks after Christmas or whenever the need arises.

Merry Christmas xx

Christmas Cake with Spelt Flour

Print Recipe
Serves: 20 - 30

Ingredients

  • 810g of your favourite small, round dried fruit
  • 120g dried apricots or figs, sliced
  • 60g prunes, stoned and chopped
  • 140ml brandy
  • 250g soft unsalted butter
  • 225g spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 250g dark brown sugar, or coconut sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon treacle or molasses

Instructions

1

Assemble your dried fruit in a large glass or ceramic bowl and pour over 100ml of brandy. Allow to soak overnight.

2

The following day, preheat your oven to 150 degrees C. Grease a 22cm round cake tin, or two 17cm round cake tins, and line with two layers of baking paper.

3

In a medium bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder and spices, and give a little stir.

4

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs into the mixture one at a time, alternating with a little of the flour mix. If it looks like it is curdling don’t despair, just add a little more flour mixture. Keep going until all of the eggs and flour have been added, and the mixture is smooth. Then add in all of the fruit and brandy mixture as well as the treacle or molasses and mix until well combined.

5

Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and smooth out the tops. You can decorate the top with whole almonds or pecans if you like.

6

Bake the cakes low down in the oven for anywhere between 2 and 3 hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. I suggest having a peek a bit before the 2 hour mark to check that they aren’t browning too much on top, if they are and the middle isn’t yet fully cooked, then scrunch up a piece of baking paper and put on top, and top that with a scrunched up piece of aluminium foil. You can also reduce the heat down to 110 degrees C and check again in 15 minutes. It is not an exact science, it is more of a ‘go as you feel’ approach, and a very good reason to not be in a rush!

7

Once the cakes are out of the oven, pour over the remaining brandy : listen to it sizzle, and breathe in a bit of Christmas. Let the cakes cool completely in their tins before removing them. Wrap the cakes in a couple of layers of baking paper and aluminium foil and pop them into an airtight tin ready for eating on Christmas Day.

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