Baking your Christmas cake is a great thing to do to fill your house with festive smells. Baking in early December will give you a couple of weeks to "feed" it with your favourite tipple.
Brenda's favourite recipe comes from her friend Elaine ...
250g butter or margarine
250g sugar (dark or light muscovado)
1 tbsp black treacle or golden syrup
4 large eggs
4 tbsp sherry or brandy (or cold tea)
½ tsp vanilla essence
125g self-raising flour
200g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp mixed spice
Pinch of salt; pinch of cinnamon; pinch of grated nutmeg
50g chopped peel
100g glace cherries, quartered
50g ground almonds
Grated rind of 1 small lemon
Line a 20 cm or 23 cm cake tin with two thicknesses of greaseproof pa-per. Cream the butter and sugar together and then beat in the treacle (or golden syrup). Beat the eggs, sherry and vanilla essence together and mix them in, alternating with the flours, sifted with the salt and spices. (Spices can be omitted if not liked). Add the remaining ingredients, but do not over-mix. (if using an electric mixer, only use it to cream the butter and sugar, mix the other ingredients in by hand). The mixture should be fairly stiff. Turn into the prepared tin and level off. Leave to rest for 10 minutes, then tap the tin to settle the mixture.
Bake for 4 - 4 ¾ hrs. At 150°C / 300°F / gas mark 1-2. Test after 4 hrs as ovens vary. Alternatively the cake can be cooked overnight for 12 hours in the bottom oven of an AGA. To avoid over browning the top cover the cake with several layers of greaseproof paper.
Leave to cool in the tin before turning out on a cake rack. When the cake is thoroughly cold, wrap in greaseproof paper or place in a cake tin. If you're like us we add a tot or two of brandy before putting the marzipan on to create a really moist cake. This can be done once a week in the run up to Christmas.
To finish cover the cake with your favourite almond paste or marzipan, leave to dry, then cover with icing and decorate as you please.
If you prefer a lighter cake use light muscovado sugar and golden syrup. The fruit can also be changed and chopped dried apricots or pineapple used instead of raisins - just keep to the same overall total weight of dried fruit.