THE CHRISTMAS CAKE
Christmas time is that very special time of the year signifying happiness, caring and family togetherness. Preparation of the traditional cakes and sweets that are a part and parcel of Christmas starts a month in advance, filling the house and neighbourhood with enticing smells. For many people, one of their strongest childhood memories, is the enticing aroma of baking at Christmas. This is the time, when the whole house is in a festive mood, with the anticipation of Christmas, and everyone in the family chips in to help prepare those heavenly delights, such as the traditional Christmas Cakes, kalkals and Rose Cookies, many other sweets and goodies that are prepared specially for Christmas. Christmas cakes are the best place to start if you want to get in the Christmas spirit nice and early. Christmas cakes are delicious if you make them in advance and feed it your chosen liquor gradually over the weeks leading up to Christmas. Most Anglo-Indian families have their own recipe for the Christmas Cake, that is usually handed down through generations. Candied fruit, plums, currants, raisins, orange peel etc are dexterously cut and soaked in Rum or Brandy a few weeks in advance. Nuts are peeled and chopped and the whole family comes together to make the cake. Jobs are allotted to everyone - one to whip up the eggs, while another creams the butter and sugar, the flour is sieved, cake tins are lined, and a strong pair of arms are requisitioned to do the final mixing and stirring. After the cake batter is poured into the tins, the real fun starts with everyone fighting to lick the leftover batter in the mixing bowl and from the spoons and spatulas -- Here is a recipe for Christmas Cake that I’ve been using for many years. It may not look very dark but its rich and tasty.
500 grams refined flour or plain flour
300 grams dark brown sugar
500 grams unsalted butter
500 grams mixed dried fruits (equal quantities of black currants, raisins and sultanas) which have been chopped finely and soaked in rum or brandy before hand
100 grams chopped orange / lemon peel
1 tablespoon Zest of lemon or orange
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
4 eggs beaten well
4 tablespoons milk (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence / extract
2 tablespoons Black Currant Jam or Orange Marmalade
2 tablespoons Black Treacle Syrup or Date Syrup (optional)
Heat the oven to 150°C
Remove the chopped fruit from the rum, drain and keep aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder and salt together.
Dust the orange / lemon peel and the chopped soaked fruit with a little flour.
Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the beaten eggs, treacle / date syrup, vanilla essence, orange / lemon zest and mix well. Now add the Black Currant Jam / Marmalade, orange / lemon peel and chopped fruit. Slowly add the flour and mix gently till all the ingredients are combined well. If the mixture is too thick add a little milk.
Pour into a greased and papered baking tin or dish and bake in a slow oven (150°C ) for about one hour or more. (Check if cooked by inserting a tooth pick. If the tooth pick comes out clean, your cake is ready. Bake for some more time if still raw inside)
Remove from the oven when done and set aside to cool.
When the cake is completely cool, poke all over with tooth pick and drizzle brandy or rum all over the cake, (repeat once in every week or ten days). Wrap in foil paper, and store in an air tight container. This cake will last for months if stored in an air tight container.