In my grandmother’s handbook for living – a collection of recipes and cures curated from her arrival in Canada in 1908 through her family-raising years – are seven Christmas cake recipes.
There is Andy’s Christmas cake, calling for two-dozen eggs and a full bottle of vanilla; Mrs. Topham’s cake with four eggs and two spoons of cocoa; Mrs. Saunder’s cake with molasses, and four other unattributed cakes. These cakes would be baked in the fall and left to mature with occasional small feedings of brandy until Christmas.
To me, Christmas cakes have largely been meh concoctions of candied peel and fat shiny cherries, but for Brit-born Mr. WI64, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional fruit-filled cake. For most of our many years, despairing of a cake from our kitchen, he would make a Christmas Eve dash to the grocery store for a marzipan-covered fruitcake he alone would eat.
So here we are, it’s 10 days til Christmas and you’re thinking, Christmas cake would be nice, but it’s way too late.
Take heart. Mrs. WI64 here with a recipe for the most fabulous, fastest-turn-around Christmas cake ever.
In my first go at this recipe borrowed largely from Nigella, I misread the alcohol requirements. Turned out it calls for 12 tablespoons, not 12 ounces, but I assure you, those extra spirits did it no harm.
This cake calls for no candied cherries, no peel, and no months of tending and feeding. Get it going this week and you’ll have Christmas cake for Christmas Eve.
Ready-in-a-week Boozy Christmas Cake
Combine these ingredients in a large pan:
- 1 lb. raisins
- 4 oz. chopped dried apricots
- 2 oz. dried cherries
- 2 oz. dried cranberries
- 4 oz. prunes
- 8 oz. sultanas
- zest of two oranges
- 3 preserved ginger balls chopped or 4 oz of candied ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 4 tbsp. brandy
- 4 tbsp. dark rum
- 4 tbsp. port
- 4 tbsp. water
Mix over a low heat until the liquid is absorbed. Cool and put into an airtight container for a week.
Seven days later, preheat the oven to 250, and combine:
- 9 oz. butter
- 9 oz. flour
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 9 oz. dark brown sugar
- 5 eggs
Add the booze-soaked fruit and mix until smooth.
Pour the mixture into a spring form cake tin (or a Bundt pan) and bake for 3.5 to 4 hours.
Christmas cake is dead easy. There is neither science nor precision to this version. I didn’t have prunes this year, so I substituted dates. No port, so I poured in rye whisky. If you like apricots or ginger, add more and make it your own.
You can ice with marzipan and royal icing if you’re inclined, but this cake needs nothing, apart from a week to soak up those juices.
I promise, it’ll make a Christmas cake convert of you.