Thursday, 5 January 2012

A Penguin's Christmas Cake

So, I've never actually really made a proper Christmas cake from start to finish, I've done in between bits 'n pieces, but never the whole shebang! So this year, I'm going to do the best one ever.... haha!  And to decorate it, well my sister and my nieces have a thing about penguins... something about that movie Happy Feet perhaps. Well I decided to combine the two.

Having never actually made a fruit cake from scratch before, I decided to consult the oldest and best recipe (apparently) from the one and only Delia -  its only fair! So this is my take on her classic Christmas cake.

Ingredients for Christmas Cake:-

450g currants
175g sultanas
175g raisins
50g mixed peel
50g glacé cherries
3tbsp brandy

225g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
50g chopped almonds
225g butter
225g soft brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tblsp treacle or syrup
zest of orange
zest of lemon

For the icing:

1 pack of ready to roll marzipan
apricot jam
1 pack of ready to roll fondant icing


You need to start preparing for this cake at least a night in advance of actually making. Measure all the dried fruit and place in a bowl and cover with the brandy, I think I added maybe one or two extra spoonfuls just to make sure it was smothered!

Preheat oven to 140C or gas mark 1

In a large mixing bowl (trust me you will need one), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then very carefully, beat in one egg at a time, starting slowly and building up speed on your hand beater or kenwood mixer if you're that lucky to have one!!

Next, fold in the flour and spices using gentle strokes. Once combined, add all the fruit that has been marinating in the brandy. Also add the chopped nuts, treacle and chopped cherries and finally zest of both the lemon and orange.

Add a few more drops of brandy if mixture feels too stiff. Carefully spoon into a prepared deep cake tin. I used a 20 inch one for this cake.

Cover the cake with some greaseproof paper, remembering to leave a small hole in the centre. This is to protect the top of the cake during the long slow baking.

Bake on the bottom self of the oven for 4 1/2hrs, it may take longer, but be patient. Once a skewer comes out clean, then you know the cake is ready. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container, wrapped in foil to keep fresh. If you wish to continue to 'feed' the cake with brandy, poke a few small holes with a knife or cocktail stick and using a teaspoon, pour over brandy gently. Continue to do this every few days, to ensure the brandy is absorbed and until you are ready to ice the cake.

When you are ready to ice the cake - a few days before its actually required is actually ok - you will need to warm up a few teaspoons of apricot jam in the microwave. About 20 seconds is enough. Brush this on to the cake, ensuring all sides are covered aswell.

Take out the marzipan from the packet and gently need to get it soft and ready to be rolled. Roll out a wide enough circle and using the rolling pin, gently transfer this to the cake. Using your fingertips, gently pat down the marzipan to the cake so that it sticks to the apricot jam and sticks to the cake. The last thing you want is the marzipan moving about. Using a cutter (I used a pizza cutter) trim the edges of the cake, to get rid of excess marzipan.

Leave in a sealed container for the marzipan to set for a day or two and be ready for the icing and decorating.

In the meanwhile, you can start to prepare the decorations for the cake... in my case, the penguins, which were made from fondant icing. Lots of patience is required but these are just too cute and worth it!!

After a few days, as with the marzipan, gently knead the icing before rolling, making sure you dust the surface with icing sugar - to prevent the icing from sticking to the surface. Roll out to the required width (or just a little more wider to make sure). Gently brush the surface of the marzipan on the cake with a little boiled water, that has been cooled. Again, transfer the icing to the cake with the rolling pin. Smooth the edges to remove bumps and trim excess using a cutter or sharp knife.

You can now start to add the decorations, use a very small amount of water to glue the penguins onto the cake.

Transfer to a plate you will be serving on - in my instance, a glass dish (note to Santa, I really need a cakestand please!) and wrap the ribbon around the sides of the cake carefully.

For the writing, I just used a small amount of royal icing with red dye. Depends on how creative you are really...

I have to admit that this cake is really fruity and with the brandy, its just too yummy. I have none left and its barely a week after Christmas!!

Happy Christmas!!

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