Finally… it’s beginning to look like Christmas at the Cooks Room.
The house is now filled with decorations, even the bathroom (after all, everyone goes there). We always have a real tree, I just love the pine smell that fills the house, and our local Scouts have them on sale this weekend ! So ours has had its base trimmed, and is sitting in a big bucket of water overnight, before it is brought inside and decorated.
I have only just made the cakes and puddings, at least a month late by my usual timetable, but I know they will still be great. At least the fruit had a good alcoholic soak by the time I got around to the actual baking.
Women’s Weekly Three in One Christmas Mix
This is my favourite cake and pudding recipe, I’ve been making it for years. There are many ways to use the basic fruit mixture. It will make one very moist cake, a pudding and also about 20 fruit mince tarts. Prepare the basic fruit mixture up to a month ahead, and once cooked, the cake will keep for at least six months. If you make an extra cake, there will be one ready for ‘Christmas in July’. Fruitcakes taste better with age! This year I have made 2 Basic Fruit Mixes (recipe follows) to allow for a couple of cakes and a pudding for home, but also to have extra to make smaller sized cakes for gifts. One whole Basic Fruit Mix has made 5 cakes: two 6 inch cakes (cook for about 2 hours 10 mins) and three 5 inch cakes (cook for about 1 hour 50 mins) all at 150C. Mini cakes can be cut from a larger one, or use 400g tuna tins, they are the perfect size, just run them through a dishwasher cycle before using.
Ingredients for Basic Fruit Mix
- 6 cups (1kg) sultanas
- 2½ cups (375g) dried currants
- 2¼ cups (425g) raisins, chopped
- 1½ cups (250g) seeded, dried dates, chopped finely
- 1½ cups (250g) seeded prunes, chopped finely
- 1¼ cups (250g) glacé cherries
- ½ cup (125g) finely chopped glacé apricots
- ½ cup (115g) finely chopped glacé pineapple
- ½ cup (115g) finely chopped glacé ginger
- ¾ cup (120g) mixed peel
- 3 medium apples (450g) peeled, grated coarsely
- 2/3 cup (220g) marmalade or fig jam
- 2 tablespoons finely grated orange rind
- ¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
- 2 cups (440g) firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon mixed spice
- 1 1/3 cups (330ml) orange liqueur, rum, brandy, whisky or sherry
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well by hand. Cover tightly or place in an airtight container. Store the mixture in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a month (or longer) Stir the mixture every few days.
Moist Christmas Cake
This recipe uses half the basic fruit mixture; the remaining is used for the pudding and fruit mince tarts. Makes one deep 20cm square, or one deep 23cm round cake.
- 1/2 basic fruit mixture
- 250g butter, melted, cooled
- 5 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 ½ cups plain flour, sifted
- 2-3 tbs Parisian Essence ( optional) if you like a darker cake
- Pre heat oven 150C. Turn off fan-forced option if possible. Otherwise turn oven down to 140C Grease and line the tin with 2 layers of heavy duty brown paper and 1 layer of baking paper, grease the paper.
- Place the fruit mixture into a large bowl (or a clean kitchen sink, plug in). Use your hands to mix in the flour, eggs and butter (add essence to butter, if using). Mix well to combine.
- Push handfuls of cake mixture firmly into the corners of the tin, press remaining mixture evenly into tin; level the top of the cake.
- Decorate the top of the cake with blanched almonds, if desired. Bake for 2 ½ – 3 hours. To test if cake is cooked: feel the top of cake with finger after the minimum time. If it feels firm, remove from oven, test by pushing a fine knife blade right down to the base of the tin, gently withdraw the knife. Cake is cooked if the knife blade is free from uncooked cake mixture. Do not confuse moistness from fruit with sticky, uncooked cake mixture.
Christmas Pudding (steamed)
Ingredients (for 8 people)
- ½ the remaining fruit mixture
- 250g butter, melted, cooled
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 cups stale breadcrumbs, lightly packed
- ¼ cup plain flour, siftedAdd the above ingredients to the basic fruit mixture, mix thoroughly.
- Grease a 2 litre pudding basin with melted butter and place a circle of baking paper in the base.
- Spoon the pudding mixture into the basin. Place a large square of foil on the bench, grease. Top with baking paper, grease. Fold a 5cm pleat crossways through both sheets. Place the sheets, baking paper side down, over the basin; secure firmly with string.
- Crush the foil and baking paper firmly around the rim to help form a good seal.
4. Place the pudding on a up-turned plate or trivet into a large boiler. Fill with boiling water to halfway up the side of the basin. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and steam for 5 hours. Replenish with boiling water as necessary.
5. Remove the pudding from the pot. Remove the foil and paper and allow the top of the pudding to dry overnight, this will help prevent any mould forming, especially if you keep the pudding for several months.
Fruit Mince Tarts
- Remaining fruit mixture
- Grated rind of 2 lemons
- Sweet shortcrust pastry (Careme brand is great)
Combine the above ingredients and mix well.
- Preheat oven to 180C Grease patty pans.Roll the thawed pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper to about 3mm thick.
- Cut out rounds from pastry and press into the patty pan moulds.
- Drop level tablespoons of fruit mince into pastry case.
- Cut out stars from remaining pastry scraps and place on centre of pies. Brush with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until browned lightly. Stand for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar before serving.