This is the time in December when I find myself revising mental checklists, not to mention all the actual To Do lists I have, to ensure that I'm on track for Christmas. I've ordered my turkey, bought presents (and the ingredients to make presents), mulled wine, trimmed my tree and written my Christmas cards. I quick glance around my kitchen reassures me that all is in hand; mince pies? Check. Rum, brandy, whisky, Bailey's and Cointreau? Check. Christmas cake? Oh, crap.
Yup, that make-it-in-November-so-it's-ready-for-Christmas item that everyone took care of weeks ago and diligently fed in the lead-up to the big day item? I forgot to make one.
You can buy decent gluten free Christmas cake in most supermarkets, but I'm a bit particular about what fruit goes into mine. Plus, my husband is allergic to nuts so any pre-marzipan-ed products are out. Fortunately, this isn't the first time I've forgotten about the Christmas cake and, I have a recipe that you can make now and pretend you did it back on Stir-Up Sunday.
If you ever buy chopped tomatoes, baked beans or spaghetti hoops in those half-sized tins, don't throw them away. Wash them out and dry them well. If they had a ring-pull top, flip them over and use a tin opener to remove the base and let it drop into the top of the can (the rim left by the ring-pull will hold it in place). Line them with baking paper and place on a baking tray. You now have a perfectly sized mini cake tin!
Last Minute Christmas Cake (Makes 4-5 mini cakes or a 15cm cake)
- 100g butter
- 100g light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 100g rice flour, or ground almonds (if nuts aren't an issue for anyone)
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 400g mixed dried fruit (I use raisins, sultanas, cranberries, mixed peel and crystalised ginger)
- 100g glace cherries, rinsed of their sticky coating and cut into quarters
- 2 tbsp brandy (or rum, whisky or Cointreau), plus extra for feeding the cake
- Preheat your oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and line your cake tin(s) with baking paper.
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and a spoonful of flour and beat until completely mixed in.
- Toss the remaining flour, mixed spice dried fruit and glace cherries together, coating the fruit in the flour.
- Add the flour and fruit into the butter, sugar and egg mixture and stir together until there are no lumps of flour and everything is well incorporated.
- Sprinkle the brandy over the cake batter and fold it in.
- Spoon the mixture into the cake tin, flattening the mix down with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for 1 hour (or 40 minutes for the mini cakes) until a skewer comes cleanly out the middle of the cake.
- Leave to cool in the tin. While the cake is still warm, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of brandy on the top of the cake, letting one in soak in before adding the next.
- If you don't plan to decorate your cake until next week, wrap it tightly in baking paper and clingfilm until you do. You can give it another helping of brandy in between times if you like.