Christmas cake: Starting a tasty tradition

If you intend to make your own Christmas cake you need to be thinking about it soon.

Of course, you can buy a ready-made cake or even go for Delia’s already-weighed version, which you can put together and cook. However, nothing feels or smells like your very own family Christmas cake.

If you have never made one, then why not have a try this year?

My recipe is an exercise in weighing out; I soaked my fruit in beer for the entire weekend. The fruit can be made up of various combinations, tropical or traditional. Once it’s in the tin, I make a hole in the centre right down to the base, so when the mixture begins to cook it floods back to the middle and cooks flat rather than rising to a peak. This is so that you don’t have to cut the cake flat when it is time to decorate.

The traditional Christmas cake is the merger of two dishes traditionally eaten around Christmas: plum porridge, or pottage, and the Twelfth Night cake.

There are traditionally two types of Christmas cake: the classic fruit cake layered in marzipan and icing, or the Scottish Dundee cake, with no marzipan or icing and made with whisky. It tends to be much lighter, with less dried fruit.

There are a couple of traditions surrounding the Christmas cake. The first is the “Stir Up”, which takes place on the last Sunday before Advent. We always make a few wishes whilst doing this part and the children are always involved. Traditionally the cake is made in November. The second is the “feeding of the cake”, when alcohol, usually brandy, sherry or whisky are carefully poured into holes in the cake made with a skewer. The Adnams spiced winter liqueur could have been made for my Christmas cake.

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As to icing the cake, I always make my own marzipan with plenty of lemon, which is utterly delicious. If you buy marzipan, do get the natural variety rather than the bright yellow stuff. Then choose royal icing, the tastiest topping in my opinion. It melts in the mouth and complements the rich cake; fondant icing is easier to apply but is not as delicious. Decoration is where you can use your imagination: a rough snow scene, sprinkled with edible glitter or modelled characters using coloured fondant paste. Whatever you do with your cake, let it take centre stage this Christmas.

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