December is upon us, and it is time to start preparing for the festive season.I don’t know about you but the traditions and family culture that surrounds Christmas fascinates me.Every family has their own set of traditions that evolve over time, within the traditions and culture of their country, religion and ethnic backgrounds.An important part of this evolution is the food and drink that is cooked, shared and given as gifts to family and friends.
One of the traditions that has been passed down in our family has been the baking of the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding.
However, the family tradition that comes to mind today is closer to home and was passed on to me by my mother. That is the baking of the traditional Christmas cake. I am not sure of customs in other countries, but in Australia around Christmas time, when I was a child, when someone dropped in for a cup of tea, you would always have to have a plate piled high with slices of rich moist Christmas cake to go with it. There are so many versions of this recipe, but here is the one that my mother used as the base for her cakes.
She would often deviate from the recipe, adding what ever was in the pantry, for example some marmalade jam, extra nuts, glace cherries, ginger pieces etc. As you can see from the picture taken from her recipe book, the page is well worn, with a collection of food stains, which I am sure if you analysed would be made up of spices, sugar, flour, butter and brandy or sherry.
I now carry on this tradition and continue to bake this cake around the beginning of December each year. I do hope this family tradition will pass on to the next generation.
Rich Boiled Fruit Cake
8 cups (2 ½ lb) mixed fruit
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons rum, sherry or brandy
¾ cups water
8 oz butter
1 ½ cups (8 oz) brown sugar
2 ½ cups (10 oz) plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons mixed spice
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 oz split blanched almonds
Place the mixed fruit, golden syrup, rum, sherry or brandy and the water in a saucepan.Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally and simmer for 2 minutes.Pour into a bowl, cover and allow to stand overnight.Set oven temperature at slow.Cream butter and brown sugar together well.Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.Sift dry ingredients together, then sift half over the boiled fruit mixture.Mix lightly and stir into the creamed mixture.Add remainder of sieved dry ingredients and fold into mixture.Place in a 9-inch round cake tin, previously lined with greaseproof paper and three thicknesses of brown paper and greased.Arrange the split blanched almonds in a pattern on the top.Bake in a slow oven for 3 ½ -4 hours.Remove cake from tin, leaving paper on and leave on wire cooling tray until cool.