sabato 19 novembre 2011

Its time to make Christmas cake

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Fruit cake is an essential part of any Christmas day celebration.

Christmas cake may be an acquired taste but its appreciation can begin in childhood to keep the tradition alive.

The taste of a commercially baked Christmas cake is hard to compare with the fullness, flavour and quality of a homemade cake.

The smell alone will put the family in a good mood and let everyone know that Christmas is just around the corner. Most households are so busy it is hard to find the time to make a Christmas cake and it has become a lost skill.

We have included two very different versions and both are delicious. We have kept the method simple so they are achievable.

The cakes have three basic processes. The first two, which include soaking the fruit and preparation of the tins, can be done the night before. The tins need to be lined with three layers of paper - two of newspaper on the outside of the tin and one greaseproof layer on the inside. This prevents the cake from drying out and ensures an evenly moist texture as the cake bakes for a couple of hours on a low temperature.

The light cake has no spices added but you can add a mixture of cinnamon, mixed spice and ginger to give it a spiced flavour. Double the quantity if you want a large cake and add an additional layer of newspaper on the outside of the tin.

The vegan dairy-free cake is amazing considering it has only four ingredients and can be made so quickly.

The texture in both cakes is moist but the vegan cake does not contain butter or eggs and therefore it makes a healthy alternative.

Both cakes taste great on their own but you could decorate them with blanched almonds and glace cherries placed on the cake halfway through baking or with a royal white and almond icing or, quicker still, with a layer of buttered brandy icing. Look on the internet and in cookery books for decorating and icing ideas and instructions. There are plenty.

Traditionally, Christmas cakes would be made in October, wrapped up in a clean tea towel and stored in an airtight tin until Christmas. The high fruit content and a little brandy poured on top will prevent spoilage and time will mature the flavour of the cake.

Light and Fruity Christmas Cake

1kg mixed fruit

1 large lemon - juice and rind

1 large orange - juice and rind

1 cup fruit juice

225g butter

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

70g ground almonds

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt


1. Place the mixed fruit into a large bowl and stir in the lemon, orange and fruit juice along with the lemon and orange rind. Use quality fruit and rinse the fruit prior to grating and juicing. Cover and leave to stand overnight. This plumps up the fruit and makes for a moist cake.

2. Prepare the cake tin by lining the sides and base with three layers of paper - one layer of greaseproof or baking paper will line the inside and two layers of newspaper will line the outside. (See instructions below.)

3. Preheat the oven to 130 degrees Celsius.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Stir in the ground almonds.

5. Cut the butter into eight pieces, place in a large bowl and soften but do not melt. Either microwave for 50 seconds on medium or place in a sink of hot water.

6. Add the sugar and beat with a wooden spoon until light and creamy, or you can use an electric beater/mixer.

7. Add the eggs one at a time, along with one tablespoon of the flour mixture. This helps to prevent the mixture from curdling. Break each egg into a cup first so you can check it for freshness and remove any bits of shell.

8. Add the flour and fruit to the creamed butter/sugar. Stir together until well combined.

9. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin. Start in the middle of the tin and work out towards the edges. Press the mixture down and into the corners using a rubber scraper and flatten the top.

10. Sprinkle one teaspoon of cold water over the top of the cake then pat the cake down with your fingers or the rubber scraper until there is a very thin layer of water over the whole top. The water serves two functions. It helps you get the top of the cake level and it prevents the cake drying out.

11. Bake at 130C for 2 1/2 -3 1/2 hours until the cake is cooked and lightly browned. A skewer or thin metal knitting needle poked into the middle of the cake will come out clean - without any mixture stuck to it. Start testing after 2 1/2 hours, every 20 minutes.

12. Let the cake cool before covering with foil and storing in a cake tin in a cool place.


Add one teaspoon each of cinnamon, mixed spice and ground ginger to the flour mixture for a spiced flavour.

Add one tablespoon of marmalade at step 7 for a more citrus flavour.

Double this recipe to make a large cake and use a 23cm square cake tin. It will take 4 1/2-5 hours to bake.

Replace 1/4 cup fruit juice with 1/4 cup brandy.

Easy Christmas Fruit Cake

BUTTER AND EGG-FREE Makes a 21cm x 21cm square cake or 23cm round cake

1kg mixed fruit

2 cups orange juice

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder


1. Place the mixed fruit in a large bowl.

2. Pour the two cups of fruit juice over the mixed fruit, stir and leave overnight.

3. Prepare the baking tin by lining both the inside and outside. (See below.)

4. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius

5. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add to the mixed fruit and juice. Mix well together.

6. Place the mixture into the prepared tin and press down evenly into the corners by using a rubber scraper, or use your fingers dipped in water.

7. Bake in oven for two hours.

8. To test when the cake is done, insert a skewer - when the cake is cooked, the skewer will be clean when it comes out.

9. Remove from the oven and cool down completely before removing from the cake tin by carefully lifting the overlapped paper sides. Place in a cake tin. If storing the cake for more than a month, wrap in tin foil.

Instructions for lining a 21cm x 21cm square cake tin

1. Line the inside base and sides with greaseproof or baking paper. To do this cut two long strips 42cm in length and 21cm in width. Place one strip on the bottom with equal amount of paper up each side and overlapping the top edge of the tin and repeat the process with the second strip on the alternate side.

2. Line the outside of the tin (base and sides) with two layers of newspaper. To do this, cut a large square 42cm x 42cm for a 21cm tin. Position the tin on top in the middle of the paper. Cut a line (diagonal or straight) from each corner of the paper into each corner of the tin. Lift the sides of paper towards the tin and form the corners by overlapping the cut paper edges and secure in place with stainless steel pins, staples or steel paper clips.

- Taranaki Daily News

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