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Amazing Christmas Cake

Today I’m sharing my much-requested and very special Amazing Christmas Cake recipe. This cake’s history dates back to World War II when eggs were hard to come by, so it is interestingly egg-free. I go back to this cake time and time again because it has such amazing flavour and texture. It cuts well, even when freshly made, so it’s also a good one to make last-minute if you didn’t get around to making a traditional cake in October!

Makes 1 deep 20cm round cake

225 g butter, cubed
1 cup hot water
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1 kg dried fruit (I like an even mix of currants, raisins and sultanas)
395 g can sweetened condensed milk
1 level tsp baking soda
¼ cup dry sherry (or whisky, rum or brandy, as preferred)
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g (2¼ cups) self-raising flour, sifted
Whole natural almonds, to decorate
Brandy, rum or whisky, to feed (optional)

Preheat oven to 150°C (130°C fan-bake). Line the base and sides of a deep-sided 20-cm round cake tin with two layers of non-stick baking paper – make sure the paper is higher than the sides of the cake tin, as the cake will rise higher than the top of the cake tin.
Place butter, hot water, vinegar, cinnamon, mixed spice and dried fruit into a large saucepan and bring just to the boil, stirring regularly until butter melts.
Remove from the heat and stir in condensed milk and baking soda (expect the mixture to foam). Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Add sherry and vanilla to the cooled fruit mixture and stir in the flour. Spread the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Arrange almonds on top, pressing them in lightly.
Bake for 2 hours 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

To store, wrap tightly in a double layer of greaseproof paper (not plastic wrap as this can make the cake sweat and go mouldy). Store in a cool place. ‘Feed’ the cake at intervals (about once a week) by poking the cake all over with a skewer, then drizzling with a little brandy, rum or whisky so that it soaks in through the holes and permeates the cake with flavour.

Raspberry Crumble Slice

This delicious slice’s buttery shortbread base and crumble topping simply melt in the mouth. Raspberry gives these squares a nice tang – you could also use lemon curd as a filling, or switch to other jam flavours, such as plum, apricot or strawberry, if you like.

300g plain flour
150g raw caster sugar
200g cold butter, cubed
300g raspberry jam
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 tablespoon freeze-dried raspberry powder

Preheat oven to 160 C fan bake and position an oven rack on the centre shelf of the oven. Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.
Put the flour, sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Alternatively, this can be done in a food processor, pulsing the mixture until crumbly.
Spoon two thirds of the mixture into the cake tin. Press mixture down firmly using the base of a glass or back of a tablespoon. Put remaining crumble mixture in the fridge.
Spread the jam evenly over the shortbread base. Now crumble the reserved mixture over the top so the jam is fully covered.
Bake for 50-55 minutes until crumble topping is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.
Mix the icing sugar and raspberry powder together and dust over the top of the slice. Cut into squares or bars, as preferred.
Lasts well for up to 5 days, if stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 16 squares

Feijoa & Banana Sheet Cake

This is a delightfully fragrant cake, studded with tender pieces of feijoa. I like to add a mashed banana for texture but you can leave this out if preferred and just add a couple more chopped feijoas instead.

175g butter
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
6 medium feijoas, peeled and chopped
1 large ripe banana, mashed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons boiling milk
1½ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
LEMON FROSTING:
25g butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
Juice of 1 lemon
BURNT HONEY FEIJOAS:
3 tablespoons runny honey
2-3 medium feijoas, peeled and finely sliced
Preheat oven to 160C fan bake. Line a 17 x 27cm sheet cake tin with baking paper, leaving a 5cm overhang on all sides.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until pale and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time. Add the feijoas and banana and beat well. In a small bowl, mix the baking soda into the hot milk – it will foam – then add this to the cake mixture.
Fold in the flour and baking powder, sifted together. Spread the mixture into the prepared cake tin.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove to cool in the tin.
Once cold, cover with lemon frosting and dot with burnt honey feijoas.
For the lemon frosting, whisk all ingredients together in a bowl until pale and fluffy.
To make the burnt honey feijoas, put the honey in a small pot set over medium heat. Cook for a minute or two or until the honey starts to caramelise and smells like burnt caramel – but take care so that it doesn’t actually burn. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in a couple of tablespoons of cold water and the feijoas. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring gently every now and then until feijoas are soft and a bit jammy in texture. Remove to cool and then loosely dot over the surface of the frosting.
Serves 14-16

My Amazing Christmas Cake

This cake’s history started during World War II when eggs were hard to come by, so it is interestingly egg-free. It has now been in my family for several generations but I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe and luckily, everyone seems to approve of my version. I go back to this cake time and time again because it has amazing flavour and texture. It cuts well, even when freshly made, so is also good to make last-minute. I like a lovely deep cake, so I use a 20cm round cake tin. However, if you use a 22-24cm cake tin then your cake will be shallower and may take only 2 ¼ hours to cook.

225 g butter, melted

1 cup hot water

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

1 kg dried fruit (I like an even mix of currants, raisins and sultanas)

395 g can sweetened condensed milk

1 level tsp baking soda

1/3 cup dry sherry (or whiskey or brandy, as preferred)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2¼ cups self-raising flour, sifted

Whole natural almonds, to decorate

Brandy, to douse (see note, below)

Place butter, hot water, vinegar, cinnamon, mixed spice and dried fruit into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring regularly.

Remove from the heat and stir in condensed milk and baking soda (expect the mixture to foam). Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 140°C (not fan-bake). Line the base and sides of a deep-sided 20-cm round cake tin with two layers of non-stick baking paper.

Add sherry and vanilla to cooled fruit mixture and stir in sifted flour. Spread mixture into prepared cake tin. Arrange almonds on top, pressing them in lightly.

Bake for 2 hours 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from cake tin.

Note: To store any fruitcake, wrap tightly in a double layer of greaseproof paper and store in a cool place. ‘Feed’ the cake with brandy at intervals (say once a week) by poking the cake all over with a skewer, then dousing with brandy so that it soaks in through the holes and permeates the cake with flavour.

Recipe and photos © Julie Le Clerc 2018