I've never made a fruit cake, or a Christmas cake, before - and I decided that this year I would make my first ever.
Flicking through the Sainsbury's magazine (which, to my embarrassment, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE) I spotted an advert from Dr. Oetker for various items from their range, with a recipe for a chocolate Christmas cake.
Well. I love Christmas cake. I love chocolate. Who wouldn't want a mixture of the two?!
I had most of the things it asked for in the house, and with a couple of minor edits to the recipe could go right ahead and make it - so that was that decided!
What the recipe asked for:
200g (1 cup) of dark muscovado sugar
175g (1 cup) chopped butter
500g (1 ready measured big bag, handy! Or 2 big heaped cups) of posh mixed dried fruits.
100g (half a pot, or quarter of a cup) of halved glace cherries
Zest and juice of one orange
100ml of brandy
100g (half a cup) chopped pecans
100g (half a cup) ground almonds
3 large eggs
200g (2 bars, or 1 cup) melted dark chocolate
200g (1 cup) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground mixed spices
1 tsp ground cinnamon
What I actually used:
1 cup dark muscavado sugar (phew, had some)
1 cup chopped butter (always)
500g fancy dried fruits (thank you recent health kick and porridge addiction)
1 pot of glace cherries, not halved (too sticky, and a nice bonus when eating it at Christmas) minus the few Midget Gem stole as I baked
100 ml calvados (apple brandy) and a big slosh of port (which is just like orange juice, right?)
100g sliced almonds, crumbled up a bit
100g chopped walnuts
200g melted dark chocolate (weeping as I did so for the lack of evening munching later)
1 big cup of plain flour (sieved by Jellybean, so messy)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground allspice (that's the same as mixed spice, is it? Who knows)
1 and a half tsp cinnamon (I wobbled)
In a large, heavy bottomed pan mix the sugar, butter, fruit, cherries, (orange juice and zest) port and brandy. Stir on a high heat until it begins to boil, then reduce so it's simmering. Keep stirring for ten minutes. Enjoy the delicious smell. Feel Christmassy and like a PROPER WIFE AND MOTHER.
Turn the heat off and leave it to cool down for 20 minutes. In this time watch Eastenders on Iplayer and make lunch for small shouting humans. Drink coffee. Sneak a tot of brandy in to your mug. (What?! I was TESTING it!)
In a big bowl mix the (pecans) walnuts, (ground) almonds, eggs, and melted chocolate. Try to resist a big spoonful (raw eggs are bad for you, or something) have a small spoonful (mmmmmmm).
Dump that into your pan of delicious boozy fruits and stir in well. Add the flour, baking powder and spices and fold together carefully. Let your toddler stir. Wipe the surface. And his hands and face.
Preheat the oven to 140c. (Line a 20cm square tin with two layers of brown paper.) Realise you have no idea how big your square tin is. Assume it's about right. Realise too late you have no brown paper. Improvise with that magic non stick brown thingy you got in the pound shop that stops things sticking to baking trays.
Pour your mixture into the prepared tin. Swear a bit when the lining stuff folds over and you slop cake mix all over the outside. Rescue it. Pour the rest of the cake mix in. Use your very exciting new bendy spatula to scrape the pan out so that all the mix makes it into the tin. Flatten the top carefully. (Add a layer of brown paper over the top with a 2cm hole in the centre so it won't burn as it cooks) hope it won't burn as it cooks.
Try to pop the tin in the oven. Swear a little again. Get your oven gloves on and move the shelves in the hot oven so that the tin will fit. Leave it there for two and a half hours.
Go for a walk with your young children. Carry them home when they decide they've walked too far. Get a stitch, and be kicked in the hips trying to carry an ungrateful toddler. Insist it's lovely to your husband, who is being kicked by the other ungrateful toddler. Get home to a house which smells delicious, just in time to remove the cake from the oven.
Remove it, leave it for five minutes on the side as you de-welly and coat the small people, hand them juice and biscuits and get your cooling rack out of the cupboard.
Place the cake on the cooling rack.
When it's cool the recipe says to cut it into four and ice and decorate it, all ready for Christmas. I'm going to pop it in a tin with a lid and repeatedly sneak more booze into it weekly in the lead up to Christmas, and a week before the big day I'll cut it into four, decorate them and distribute them. In the meantime I will make another, tomorrow, for us to keep. I can't wait!