Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Delia does Christmas (cakes)

on October 16, 2010

Hello world!  Wow first post.

To demonstrate how contrary I am, after writing how this blog is about simple things, my first blog is on Christmas cakes!  Delia Smith’s to be precise.  But do not be scared because actually Christmas cakes are not difficult.  They aren’t easy either but that’s more to do with the time it takes than any technical complicatedness.

I baked the Christmas cakes 2 weeks ago at the start of October.  Some would probably say this is a bit late, but I don’t really care.  October is acceptable I think.  The reason for baking a cake this early on is it needs time to sit.  A good Christmas cake needs time to mature and be fed brandy.  And no, there is that much fat and preserved goods in this cake – it physcially cannot go off.  In fact, in baking the cakes I found a small bit of one leftover from last year at the bottom of my cake tin and it tasted delicious – and that was at least a year old!

You cannot count calories on a Christmas cake, if you even think about it you’ll give yourself a heart attack.  But Christmas is not a time for dieting and besides the cake is so rich you only eat small amounts anyway.  Ignore the calories and save the diet for January.

I made 4 cakes.  I did this because I’m a masochist and because I have an original Kenwood Chef kindly donated to me by my grandmother-in-law.  Do not attempt this many cakes without one.  Your arm will literally fall off!  But if you have one, I figure, if you’re doing 1 you may as well do 4 because it’s just more ingredients.  Unfortunately, 4 cakes take 3 hours to mix!  And then you’ve got about 4.5-5 hours of baking on top of that!   But because of all the ingredients, even if you’re doing 1 you should give yourself a clear afternoon at least.

Anyway, enough of me rambling.  To the recipe.  Now, copyright forbids me from reproducing it here in its entirety, but here is a link and an extract

“This, with no apologies, is a Christmas cake that has been in print since 1978, has been made and loved by thousands and is, along with the Traditional Christmas Pudding, one of the most popular recipes I’ve produced. It is rich, dark and quite moist, so will not suit those who like a crumblier texture. Recently we took some of these cakes along to book-signing sessions up and down the country and were quite amazed to see so many people take a mouthful and then buy a book!”

I think when it comes to things baked, and especially traditional and cakes, there is no one better than the queen of cooking – Delia.  I don’t use her for everything but this cake recipe is to die for!  When I first started baking Christmas cakes 3 years ago, I used a Cranks recipe but whilst it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t Delia either.  If you like the crumblier cake that she refers to, you may find the Cranks recipe more to your liking.

But I used Delia for the first time last year and well, if it’s still delicious a year later, you can’t complain!  I didn’t change much in the recipe, except I had to do some of the cakes without cherries and almonds and some with, so I decorated the ones with almonds with flaked almonds on the top so I knew which ones they were when they were done.  If you have nut allergies or don’t like cherries, add an equivalent weight in other fruit (more sultanas will do the trick – they’re the cheapest of the shrivelled grapes) otherwise you’ll find you have too much batter and the cake takes longer to cook.

The other thing Delia doesn’t mention but I picked up from the Cranks recipe (and possibly my mother-in-law as well) is to wrap your tins on the outside in paper.  Any paper will do – newspaper, wrapping paper, brown paper, whatever.  Don’t use expensive baking paper.  That’s for lining the tins.  Although I ran out so I didn’t line my tins I just greased them well and used push out bottom tins (I can’t remember the correct name) and a hot knife (dip in boiling water) to pry the bottom of the cake off the bottom.  You’re supposed to fix the paper round the outside with string but I’ve used sellotape, parcel tape, string, cotton, and none of it made any difference or burned.  The reason for the paper is it stops the tin from over heating with the long cooking times. The baking paper on top of the cakes helps too.

Returning to this recipe though, Delia is right , it takes at least 4 hours and there’s no point looking before then, whatever smells are coming out the kitchen.  The only thing I’d check for is burning tops (maybe 3 hours or so in) and if they are, turn down the heat, or if you have more than 1 cake, rotate their positions in the oven.  I always find the cake at the front needs 45minutes – 1 hour longer than the ones at the back.

Once the cakes are cooked, cooled (the escaping crumbs and currants attached to the papers sneakily eaten), and fed with brandy; double or triple wrap them in cling film and store them in a cake tin (I use old bicuit tins, panetone tins or anything that’s more or less air tight and good for storage).  Take them out every few weeks and feed them some more brandy until about a week before you’re due to ice.  Then, if you’re doing traditional icing, do your marzipan first, leave out to dry a few days before adding the royal icing.  And yes, to stick, any jam will do, but something that doesn’t taste of much, like apricot, and without much fruit (you don’t want lumps – but not jelly either) is best. The best thing about icing is it covers any mistakes in baking (lost corners, slightly burnt tops, etc).

And ta da, a wonderful Christmas cake, for your friends and family (and you) to enjoy come 25th December.  It is worth the wait.  I promise.  Don’t cheat and eat it early – remember all good things need to be fed brandy and have time to mature.  At least according to my mother-in-law!  And to be honest, she’s rarely wrong, especially when it comes to baking.


2 responses to “Delia does Christmas (cakes)

  1. […] cakes I made back in October, which were my first ever blog on here – which you can find here, another Delia favourite.  No, I didn’t make the marzipan.  In all honesty, I couldn’t […]

  2. […] recipe.  I’ve used it every year for 3 years , and I can’t fault it.  To find that, click here, for my first ever post.  I spent 3 hours earlier today mixing them all (there’s 3) and they’ve now done […]

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