Every year, for about 6-split seconds in early December, when the nights are cold and optimism is nigh, I contemplate making a Christmas Cake.
There is something so festively sexy about that syrupy cake that is crammed full of dried fruits that lets me know that Christmas is here, but by the grace of Santa and his elves, god damn it, I am just too lazy.
I recall Sharon, a very good friend of mine and who coincidentally was the catalyst to me starting a food blog, telling me about her Christmas Cake. Having to feed it every so often with a slurp of alcohol and all the stuff that went in it. Don’t get me wrong, the end product was something to bestow, but the actual act of devotion and maintenance it took to get there is a life I just can’t align myself to.
Christmas is about laziness and excess consumption, not keeping a watchful eye on a fruity sponge and giving it your alcohol.
So I stumbled upon a challenge that the wonderful Jack Monroe set herself, whereby she tried to achieve a Christmas Cake using as few ingredients as possible (here). It struck a chord with me because the more I thought about it, the more I realised there was an achievable way of creating a rich, fruit cake without ANY of the faff.
In essence, this cake is not really a Christmas Cake (sorry to get you here under false pretences) but what it is, is a beautiful seasonally spiced fruit cake which takes nothing more than a few stirs to make. It means you will have the festive enchantment of a fruit cake perched proudly on your Christmas table with only a fraction of the work.
I am totally charmed by this cake. The simplicity lies in the method, as it is made with ginger beer. Gasp. While this doesn’t exactly give it a ginger clobber around the face, it does give it a wonderfully light crumb. But because I still search for that spice intensity with my seasonal bakes, I have amped up a little of the seasoning by adding my own spices.
I have also gone one step naughtier than Monroe’s, using a different flour method and adding both some marmalade and some tacky glacier cherries. There is something garish about glacier cherries that just makes me so happy and a fruit cake to me, isn’t a fruit cake, unless there are sweet red chunks staring back at me with every slice.
Preheat your oven to 170c and grease and line a 20cm spring form cake tin.
In a big mixing bowl, weigh out 200g of plain flour and to this add 2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder, quarter of a teaspoon of 5 Spice and 1 tsp of ground cinnamon.
In a big ass jug, pour in 200ml of ginger beer before spooning in about 3/4 of a jar of mincemeat. My jar was 411g. To this add two tablespoons of marmalade and a generous handful of halved glacier cherries, a drizzle of vanilla extract and crack in two eggs. Whisk this with a good strong arm to create a fruity batter.
Empty this into the spiced flour and give everything a mix. Turn this batter into the greased/lined tin and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, check to see how the top is looking and if it’s looking a little brown, cover it with foil.
You’ll know the cake is done when a cake tester or little silver needle can be put into it and pulled out without any sticky residue stuck on it.
Leave it to cool completely before removing from the tin and dusting with some icing sugar.