Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, a time for remembering those less fortunate than you and spending time with your nearest and dearest.
Meanwhile back in the real world, we’re rapidly approaching the time of year where we eat too much, overdose on sherry, argue with the in-laws and count down the god-forsaken minutes until we can go back to work.
This simple Christmas survival cake recipe won’t change anything, but it tastes good and there’s enough brandy in it to make sure you’re half-soaked until New Year’s day.
To soak in advance:
- 3 x 500g bags of Co-operative dried mixed fruit
- 2 pots of Co-operative glacé cherries
- 1 pot of Co-operative mixed peel
- 1/2 bottle of brandy plus extra for feeding (Disclaimer: if you are spending Christmas with in-laws, judgemental mothers or toddlers you will probably need more brandy)
For the mixture:
- 500g plain flour
- 500g dark brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 dessert spoonfuls of ground cinnamon
- 3 dessert spoonfuls of ground mixed spice
- 8 large eggs
- Two dessert spoonfuls of black treacle
- 500g unsalted butter
- 2 dessert spoonfuls of lemon juice
Soaking the fruit:
- Empty all dried fruit, glacé cherries and mixed peel into a huge lunch box
- Chuck in half a bottle of brandy, more if needed (see above)
- Leave for as long as possible – I have left it as little as 12 hours and as long as 12 months (I forgot that one. Best cake ever, the children slept like angels after just one slice)
- Take an enormous mixing bowl and sieve the flour into it
- Add cinnamon, spices, sugar and salt and mix everything together
- Melt the butter over a low heat
- Add lemon juice, treacle and melted butter and mix again
- Add the eggs and mix again
- Add the fruit gradually, mixing as you go along (it’s fine to pour in any dregs of brandy left at the bottom of the lunch box, let’s face it you’ll need it at this time of year)
- Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees centigrade (gas mark 1)
- Grease three square baking trays – two 20 cm square and one 10 cm square
- Line the trays with baking paper on the bottom and sides
- Cut out another piece of baking paper, doubled over to go on the top of the cake. This should have a hole around the size of a 50 pence coin cut in the centre.
- Pour mixture into tins
- Place larger tins into the centre of the oven and smaller tin on the bottom shelf
- Bake for four hours
- Remove all cakes and allow to cool for half an hour in the tins before removing and allowing the cooling process to continue
- Every few days, look your cake square in the eyes (easier when glacé cherries have risen to the top) and imagine it’s your most annoying Christmas-invading relative
- Stab it repeatedly with a cocktail stick
- Pour a small amount of brandy all over the top of the cake
- Decorating is optional but bear in mind there will always be some miserable old goat that doesn’t like marzipan
Cake 1: The small one
This is to be consumed as soon as it has cooled down enough to ensure that nobody will suffer serious burns. This should prevent the usual tears and tantrums from toddlers and husbands about having to wait until Christmas to be allowed to eat the cake.
Cake 2: Your Christmas cake
This can be consumed any time after putting the children to bed on Christmas eve. Best enjoyed with a stiff drink. Should last well into the New Year as long as you don’t share it.
Cake 3: The cheap gift
Let’s face it, there’s always someone awkward who moans at whatever you buy them for Christmas. They won’t like this either but at least it’s cheap.