When should you start making your Christmas fruitcake?
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From millennia past to the modern-day the fruit cake has been a constant during festive times. It has been a holiday food item for centuries and inevitably this time of the year brings an endless stream of jokes about fruitcakes.
A fruitcake is the perfect family treat during the festive season, although it can be daunting to bake. A favourite of many grandmothers and elderly family members, the traditional fruitcake is made from dried, candied fruits and peels with just enough alcohol-infused batter to hold its shape.
According to Yahoo contributor, Lonnette Harrell, the fruitcake goes back to ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. Harrell wrote that it was the English who started the Christmas tradition. By the16th century, oatmeal was removed from porridge, and more cake ingredients were added, such as butter, eggs, and a variety of dried fruit and spices, and it was sometimes called Christmas cake because the spices brought to mind the story of the wise men.
Harrell said it was a cake that could be kept without refrigeration, and that the Crusaders carried pieces of fruitcake in their saddlebags on long journeys. So next time you roll your eyes at granny's insistence that there be fruitcake served as a dessert during Christmas lunch, maybe think about how much history and fond memories it holds for her.
When should you start making it?
There is conflicting advice online about how far in advance of Christmas the cake should be made. Some suggest six weeks is sufficient whereas others say that twelve weeks is best.
Some experts say while opinions on the "maturing" of Christmas are partly an issue of personal taste, for the rich fruit type of Christmas cakes, its best to bake them them up to two or three months ahead of Christmas. This gives you plenty of time to let it mature and 'feed' your Christmas cake regularly as the big day approaches.
Experts reveal that giving it a good amount of time to firm up will also improve the flavour and appearance when the time comes to slice your cake - if you eat your Christmas cake too soon after baking it, you will find that it crumbles. While it’s still fine to start your bake closer to Christmas, you will simply have less of a 'kick' as you will have less time to feed it with rum, brandy, or sherry.
Here’s a recipe you can try.
Boiled fruit cake
500g cake fruit mix
5ml mixed spice
5ml bicarbonate of soda
375ml cold water
125ml cherries halved
5ml baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
125ml strong brewed coffee
Combine fruit mix, butter, sugar, spices, bicarbonate of soda, and water in a pot.
Boil gently for 25 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from the stove and pour into a glass bowl.
Add the cherries. Allow cooling completely.
Once cooled, add the flour, baking powder, and eggs and mix until combined.
Pour into a lined, 18cm cake tin and secure double newspaper or brown paper around the outside with string so that the cake is well protected from too much direct heat.
Bake at 160°C for 60-90 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove.
Meanwhile, combine the hot coffee and brandy. Pour over the hot cake and allow it to cool in the tin.
Remove and wrap the cake in foil and store it in an airtight container.
Recipe by Angela Day.