A belated Christmas cake

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The busy run-up to Christmas is paved with good intentions, namely my intention to publish this post.  So forgive me for missing the boat a little with this one.  I think we can still consider this timely though, as many of us will have tin-foiled lumps of Christmas cake waiting for a cup of tea.

I would never try to better my go-to Christmas cake recipe – Nigella Lawson’s chocolate fruit cake.  I have made her cake for a least five years and partly what makes it so great is that it’s another of my favourite one-pot recipes.  You don’t need to make it weeks in advance as all of the delicious fruity, boozy, buttery ingredients are gently boiled together to mellow and release their flavours.  Not only does this make it scrumptious, it will also make your house smell amazing.

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So without further ado, here are the ingredients and method below. It’s a long list of ingredients I know, but worth it!  My only little tweak is the brazil nuts, which make the cake feel all hearty and wholesome and slightly good for you.  I also used brandy in my most recent version instead of coffee liqueur, but both are equally good and cointreau’s not bad either.

For Nigella Lawson’s chocolate fruit cake you will need:

  • 3 cups pitted prunes
  • 1 ¾ cups raisins
  • 1 cup currants
  • 50g candied peel
  • 175g soft unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown or muscovado sugar
  •  cup honey
  • ½ cup tia maria or other coffee liqueur (or brandy or cointreau!)
  • 2 – 3 oranges (juice and zest)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • And if you’re like me, 1 cup brazil nuts

Put the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, booze, orange juice and zest, mixed spice and the cocoa in a big saucepan over a medium heat and bring it to the boil, stirring.  Simmer for 10  minutes and remove from the heat, letting it stand for 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, warm your oven to 150 degrees celsius and get your cake tin ready.  You are going to line it so the baking paper towers up beyond the sides of the tin and your finished, prepared tin looks like it has an extra top layer of baking paper.

This may seem a lot of faff but I promise it’s worth it as without it, the top of the cake can be burned and tough.  There are more explicit instructions here.  In short, I find it works for me if I grease the whole tin liberally to start.  I cut out a circle of baking paper for the base and two long strips which circle around half of each side, and then plaster it all on, the side pieces first and then the base circle.  This is not the best picture, but I’m including it to give an idea of the finished product if that’s helpful and, like me, the idea of origami makes you balk a little.

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Add the eggs and all dry ingredients to the cooled butter mix and stir gently to combine.  Pour the mix into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 and 3/4 to 2 hours, until the top is firm but shiny and a skewer inserted into the middle has a little gooey mixture clinging to it.

Cool in the tin.  It keeps for ages wrapped in a layer of baking paper encased in tin foiled. It’s not at all bad with a little nip of something!  And of course, it goes well with tea.

Keep safe and happy this Christmas season, wherever you are in the world.

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Eight-minute chocolate orange cake

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What’s not to love about a cake that you can make entirely in one cake tin? Hardly any dishes and quick to boot.  Because, although I love to cook and bake, there are times when I am too greedy or impatient to fuss around.  If it’s delicious and you can get it in the oven in under ten minutes, count me in.

I have been fiddling around with this particular recipe for a few weeks now, having found myself in need of a cake on several occasions (mainly the delicious shared morning teas for which my workmates are justly famous, but also once or twice just NEEDING CAKE).

It is adapted from this recipe for six-minute chocolate cake, which I understand is an old Moosewood one.  And perhaps this is why I am particularly drawn to this notion, because I have an enduring soft spot for all things Moosewood. I think The Enchanted Broccoli Forest is one of the sweetest cookbook titles of all time.  I still rue the day I trustingly lent out my own lovely Moosewood Cookbook, never to be seen again.

I have called this recipe an eight-minute chocolate cake, as I don’t feel I can truthfully say it takes six minutes like its predecessor, since I ask that you zest an orange. But, I promise it’s still eight minutes-quick with a chocolatey, satisfying cake at the end that’s worth the orange zesting.  It’s also pretty easy to whip up, as most of the ingredients are generally in the pantry.  I like the little dash of ground almonds for the moist and grainy texture the give, but if you don’t have these to hand, just use an extra 1/4 cup flour instead of the almonds, and it still works a treat producing a slightly firmer cake.

You will need:

  • 1 & 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds (or, if you don’t fancy ground almonds, use 1 & 1/2 cups of plain flour)
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1
 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 
cup brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 
cup coffee (cold)
  • 2 
teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 
tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

Preheat your oven to 190 celsius.

Put the flour, ground almonds (if using), cocoa, baking soda, salt, sugar and the orange zest into an ungreased 9 inch round cake tin and mix it together, breaking up any lumps.

Mix together the oil coffee and vanilla and add to the dry ingredients in the tin.  Mix the batter until smooth with a whisk or a fork.

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Add the vinegar and orange juice and stir quickly. You will see pale stripes in the batter – this is where the baking soda is reacting with the vinegar and orange juice.  Stir until the vinegar and juice is just distributed through the batter.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Set aside the cake to cool.

It’s tasty dusted with a little icing sugar and served with whipped cream.  Or, as I have done in the picture, it responds well to a hearty dose of chocolate icing.

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