For many years, the Thérèse would commission me to bring back a Christmas Cake from London. Her preferred Christmas Cake was from Waitrose and more recently from Marks and Spencer’s, but she now finds them too sweet. Fortunately, our good friend Jackie “She who must be Obeyed” Dennis makes her own Christmas Cake from a recipe that appears to have escaped the fire-bombing of London during World War II. (Note to Langston: “She who must be obeyed” was the way Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher was to referred to by her late husband, Sir Denis. Don’t you have the same relationship with Mere?)
When Jackie (“JD”) decided to trade in her hockey sticks for pots and pans, she has emerged as quite a useful cook. Now many of Gourmay’s jingoistic readers may be surprised to learn that there are competent cooks in the UK that are not immigrants, but I have personally sampled JD’s cooking and can attest to its excellence. This recipe comes from the Good Housekeeping Book that JD was awarded at the age of 12 for scoring 96% on her Domestic Science Exam (discretion prevents me from telling you what year). This recipe for Christmas Cake (ingredients adjusted for a 9″ deep cake pan) is, according to Thérèse, “the best I have ever tasted.” I’ll have to take her word for it since the Grinch does not eat Christmas Cake, Royal or otherwise.
Please Note: A “proper” Christmas Cake should be baked some 60 days before Christmas so all of the flavors can meld. The cake is then stored in a dark cupboard until the marzipan is applied (see storing instructions below). Our cake was prepared some 25 days in advance.
Royal Christmas Cake from Les Jacques
1 1/2 lb of currants
12 oz raisins
1 1/2 lb of sultanas
9 oz mixed peel
6 oz glacé cherries
6 oz blanched almonds
15 oz butter (recipe calls for margarine but Thérèse only uses butter)
15 oz castor sugar
18 oz flour
A pinch of salt
3 tsps of mixed spice
A little milk
- Soak the fruit (currants, raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, glacé cherries) in a heavy dose of either whiskey, brandy or sherry. (Note: The Thérèse recommends brandy)
- Do not chop the fruit after soaking, but do chop the blanched almonds into smaller pieces.
- Allow butter to come to room temperature. Cream with sugar till soft and light.
- Break the eggs separately into a basin, beat lightly and add one by one to creamed mixture.
- Beat each egg in very thoroughly before adding next. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
- Sieve dry ingredients into a bowl, add fruit and grated lemon rind. Fold gradually into mixture.
- Continue to mix in dry ingredients lightly, with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little milk.
- The mixture should finally be of a stiff dropping consistency; put into a lined 9″-inch cake pan.
- Bake the cake for the first two hours at 350º and at 300º F for the last two hours. Make sure to cover loosely to prevent top from browning too quickly.
- Remove papers and after 20 to 30 minutes turn out to cool on a rack.
Please note that a “proper” Christmas Cake should be made about 60 days before Christmas: about the same time you put out the Grouse to age. You should simply store in a darkened cabinet (not the fridge) wrapped in tin foil. The Thérèse suggests wrapping the cake in cheese-cloth soaked in brandy before placing in the foil. This makes total sense to me.
Marzipan and Royal Icing Recipe to Follow
Jacques uses about 1 ½ – 2lbs of marzipan(imported from Waitrose) to cover the cake before covering with Royal Icing. This is applied about a week before serving. Recipe to be provided shortly.
Thank you Jacques for your contribution. We will see if Thérèse can deliver the goods.