Presenting the 2014 Royal Christmas Cake

Royal Christmas Cake

I would like to present the 2014 Royal Christmas Cake. While it is true that I mock this culinary relic of the British empire, some people feel the need for nostalgia and a sugar lift at this time of year. If so, please indulge.

For those who can’t find a Waitrose or Harrod’s nearby, you may find the recipe for this dessert heavyweight by CLICKING HERE. If you are considering baking it now, FORGET IT!: You need to start after Halloween. Perhaps, you could ask Mrs. Padmore to cook it for you next year.

Royal Christmas Cake – Part 2

The Brits don’t like to like to do things halfway, but they do make exceptions for retarded colonials.  As such, I am pleased to provide Part 2 of the recipe for the Royal Christmas Cake.   This tribute to the culinary art of the British is provided by Jackie Dennis, affectionately known to family and close friends as,  “She who must be Obeyed.”  I simply call her JD or Les Jacques, since I have my own Commander-in-Chief in residence.

Les Jacques has advised me that using almond slivers is OK rather than chopping them up in the making of the cake.  I have amended the original recipe to reflect that suggestion even though the Thérèse preferred to chop the almonds.  Nevertheless, she too agrees that almond slivers makes far more sense and saves time.

We baked the Christmas Cake on Sunday and Thérèse has now wrapped the cake in a brandy-soaked cheese cloth and foil and stored in a cool place but not refrigerated.  I know that this may sound strange to American colonialists since we do like our food fresh, but simply consider that the British have a strange way of aging their grouse.

Les Jacques informs me that a “proper” Christmas Cake is normally aged 60 days and that “proper” Englishmen prefer to drink the brandy in a snifter rather than soak the cake.   (Note to Langston:  Use brandy, bourbon or sherry to wrap the Christmas Cake.   Dr Pepper is not recommended).   Aging your baked cake in brandy certainly makes sense to me.

Essential Notes on Timing and Preparation:   OK.  You’ve had your Royal “bloody” Christmas Cake aging in a dark place for the last 30 to 60 days and Christmas is fast approaching.  The recipe calls for adding the marzipan armor 5 to 7 days before Christmas so it can harden.  Les Jacques has reluctantly  informed me that she has occasionally done this the night before, so don’t despair if your Blackberry alarm system was down.  In any event, she recommends poking the cake a bit with a fork, ice pick or knife and adding a little more brandy to moisten it up.  Use a bit of  jam (apricot is preferred) to coat the surface of the cake before adding the marzipan.  The Royal Icing should be applied the day before Christmas when you don’t have too many other things to do (this is English humor).

Royal Christmas Cake Pt. 2:  Marzipan and Royal Icing

Useful Recommendations from Les Jacques:   Consider adding a little extra brandy into the baked cake the day before putting on the marzipan. Assuming that the cake is eaten within a couple of weeks of Christmas I do not think it is necessary to add glycerin unless you have it at hand. The icing will harden but as long as the cake is kept wrapped or in a tin it will be fine.  Les Jacques Shortcut:  Consider using Waitrose Golden Marzipan (Sainsbury is also OK) make your almond paste.  JD informs me that marzipan that can be rolled into the form to cover the top and sides is also available in US grocery stores.   If you insist to do it the old-fashioned way, keep reading.

Almond Paste Ingredients or Marzipan:

6 oz castor sugar
6 oz icing sugar
12 oz ground almonds
4 egg yolks
3 Tbsp of lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond essence

Preparation of Almond Paste

  • Mix sugars and ground almonds
  • Form into a pliable paste with the egg yolks beaten with lemon juice and essence.
  • Knead lightly until smooth and free of cracks.
  • Brush top and sides of cake with melted golden syrup or with two rounded tablespoons apricot jam, melted and sieved (optional).
  • Cover neatly with almond paste and put cake aside in a cool place for 4 days to a week till the past hardens.

Laying on of Marzipan

Ingredients for Royal Icing

3 egg whites
1 1/4 lb icing sugar
1 1/4 tsp glycerine
1 tsp of lemon juice

Preparation for Royal Icing

  • Lightly whisk egg whites, then add sugar a little at a time, beating well till icing is smooth and stiff enough to form small peaks.
  • Stir in glycerine and lemon juice.
  • Spread icing thickly over top and sides of cake smoothing with a palette knife dipped from time to time in hot water and shaken dry.
  • Leave icing a few days to harden before decorating.

(Editor’s Note:  If you are like me, you now understand why the British lost their Empire if it takes this much time to make a Royal Christmas Cake that most gourmands feel is hardly edible.)

Royal Christmas Cake

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

Ingredients

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
10-12 eggs
18 oz flour
A pinch of salt
3 tsps of mixed spice
2 lemons
A little milk

Preparation

  • 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.

Storing

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.