California Raisin Christmas Cake by Charlotte White

California Raisin Christmas Cake by Charlotte White

There are few things so Christmassy as the smell of a Christmas cake baking in your oven. The warming spice scent seems to permeate every room of the house and lucky is the guest who drops in as this baby is baking!

Baking your Christmas cake is the perfect way to get into the festive spirit ahead of time, as you will need to prepare the cake 4 weeks before you intend to serve it. As such, I use this baking time to consider the other foods that I will make on the big day, to write lists of gifts I need to buy, and figure out what it is that I should be asking Father Christmas for. It’s both tradition and ritual, as steeped in superstition as ruby port.

My Christmas cake has a little twist in that I use lots of red fruits, ruby port, and there is not a currant in sight as I really dislike them. Your own Christmas cake can contain everything that you love as well as anything than needs using up. Those leftover bits of dried fruit and nuts from the year’s baking? Throw them in! The more the merrier.

Ingredients:California Raisin Christmas Cake by Charlotte White

700g California raisins
150g dried cranberries
150g dried apricots (chopped)
100g glace cherries (halved)
100g dried dates (chopped)
25g stem ginger
450ml ruby port
300g unsalted Butter
180g muscovado sugar
4 eggs
½ tsp orange extract
1tbsp black treacle
300g plain flour
150g ground almonds
2tsp mixed spice

You will need:
8” round deep cake tin, lined with baking parchment and wrapped in brown paper

Preheated oven 150⁰C / 300⁰F / Gas Mark 2

  • Begin by weighing your dried fruits into a large saucepan. Pour 450ml of ruby port over the fruits and warm gently over a very low heat. Stir your fruits to ensure an even coating in the warm alcohol for around 5 minutes. The fruits will plump up beautifully in their boozy bath.
  • Remove your soaked fruits from the heat, cover the pan with clingfilm, and leave to steep overnight. You can get away with leaving the fruits to soak for longer but aim for at least 8 hours before using them.
  • Before beginning your cake, you will need to prepare your cake tin. I have listed separate instructions for ease of use so please ensure that you refer to these before you start baking up a storm.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until pale. Allow 5 minutes for this job in a freestanding mixer or a few minutes more using a hand whisk. Add your eggs, one at a time to prevent curdling. If your mixture threatens to split, throw in a spoonful of flour from the weight that you have measured for this cake.
  • Once your eggs are incorporated, add orange extract and the treacle. Beat until evenly coloured.
  • In a separate bowl, combine your flour, ground almonds, and mixed spice. Carefully fold one third of these dry ingredients into your cake mix.
  • Fold one third of your steeped fruits into the cake mix until evenly distributed.
  • Repeat steps 6 and 7 until all of your dry ingredients and fruits are combined in the cake mix. Spoon this heavy mixture into your prepared cake tin, ensuring that the mixture is pressed into the edges of the tin and smoothed down on the top, and bake for around 3 hours. As with all cakes, this one will be risen and springy to the touch when it is completely cooked. When in doubt, a cocktail stick inserted into the middle of your cake should come out clean. 3 hours usually does the trick but if your oven is notoriously fierce, you may want to check 10 minutes early. If your cake does not feel completely cooked through when you check, you can leave this cake in for up to around 3 hours and 10 minutes.
  • When you take your cake out of the oven, drizzle over a tablespoon of ruby port and wrap in tin foil. As the cake cools, this will infuse additional festive spirit into your cake. Leave this little parcel on a wire rack until it has cooled completely. This will take several hours.
  • When your cake has cooled, you will be able to turn it out of its tin, keeping the greaseproof paper as a wrapping around your cake. Wrap once more in tin foil, place in an airtight container, and keep in a cool, dry place. You will need to leave the cake to mature for at least 4 weeks before even thinking about serving it. Each week, you should check on your fruitcake and feed it with a tablespoon of ruby port – each time you check it, the delicious smell will have deepened.

Preparing your cake tin

You will need:

Sturdy cake tin, 3” deep
Greaseproof baking paper
Heavy brown paper (the kind used to wrap parcels)

  • Begin by wrapping a length of greaseproof paper around your cake tin to measure the length that you will need (for an 8” tin, you will need approximately 26”) and cut this to allow for the height to be around an inch deeper than your cake tin. My tin is 3” deep so I have cut a 4” deep piece of greaseproof paper.
  • Cut ‘teeth’ along the bottom edge of this strip of paper, around ½ inch apart. When you lay this piece of paper around the inside of your cake tin, the teeth will fold inside the tin and sit perfectly.
  • Cut a circle of greaseproof paper to sit in the bottom of your cake tin. With the ‘teeth’ from your edge strip of paper beneath this circle, you will have created a perfectly lined cake tin.
  • Cut a length of brown paper to line the outside edge of your tin. I like to fold my brown paper so that I have a double thickness. You will need to tie this paper around your cake tin with string so that it is secure. This extra layer protects the cake from the heat of the oven and prevents burnt edges.

To see other Christmas recipes – click here

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