Cake to keep (for two or three weeks)
For at least the last 10 years I’ve been using the same Christmas cake recipe, with the only variation being whether I soak the dried mango and pineapple in spiced rum or spiced mead. It’s a nice cake, but this year I felt like a change. We’d enjoyed the Simnel cake recipe I’d baked from Vegetarian Cooking Through The Year so last week I decided to give the Christmas cake recipe from the same volume a try.
My first challenge was finding dried pears; I couldn’t get them anywhere within walking distance of home! I thought about the rest of the fruit in the cake, currants, sultanas, raisins and apricots, then looked at what we had on the shelf at work and decided that dried sweet cherries would do nicely.
The next challenge was to find a vegetarian sherry. I eventually found an amontillado (how suitably Poe), a nip of which will also make a nice companion to cooking Christmas dinner. At this time of year my drinks cupboard gets a bit scary; sherry for the cake, brandy for the mincemeat, rum for stollen, and possibly some kirsch still to add for a dessert I want to make for Christmas Eve or New Year… I might be making up some jars of boozy fruit in readiness for next Christmas.
Making the cake was nice and simple. It smelt lovely getting home the day I’d left the fruit and chopped almonds infusing in the sherry, ready to bake in the evening. Cheating a bit, as usual, I mixed the flour, spices, ground nuts, fat and eggs, in the food processor then stirred the mix through the fruit by hand. It all looked right going into the tin and tasted right when I cleaned the bowl out before washing it; I’m afraid when it comes to cake mix I do take my chance with raw egg. Two hours into the baking time, when I went to check on the progress of the cake, I realised I’d missed an ingredient or two; there on the side was the still sealed jar of molasses with the honey alongside it, too late to do anything about it I shrugged my shoulders and concluded that since the mix had seemed right, and the cake smelt and looked good, the lack couldn’t be too serious.
Now of course it’s waiting time. The cake is wrapped in baking parchment, securely in it’s tub, being unwrapped to be fed a tablespoon of sherry about every 4 days; the recipe doesn’t actually mention feeding the cake but it’s a Christmas cake, of course it needs feeding! In two weeks time I’ll add marzipan and icing. I’m looking forward to seeing if it tastes as good as it smells.
4.5 out of 5 for well written instructions and ease of baking
I can’t really grade the tastiness just yet!
And a cake to eat (now)
Having made a cake which wasn’t for immediate consumption I thought perhaps I should make another cake this week. I’d been given a glut of ripe bananas so a banana cake of some description was the obvious choice. I picked up the Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking and thumbed my way to the chapter on teabreads and cakes. Banana and Pecan Teabread looked nicely tempting.
I had most of the ingredients in the cupboards but I did need to buy shelled pecans. Again, using the food processor to mix everything, this was a doddle to make. When I’m mixing a fruity cake in the food processor I mix everything except the fruit, then use the pulse option to mix the dried fruit in so as to keep as much of the fruit whole as possible. The only thing I would disagree completely with the recipe about is the cooking time; the recipe suggested an hour’s baking for the size I was making, with perhaps a few minutes more; I ended up giving my cake an extra half hour, which to me is more than a few minutes. Minor grumble aside, the cake is moist, tasty, and moreish; I’m likely to bake it again.
4 out of 5 for ease of baking and well written instructions
4.5 out of 5 for tastiness