I’m a little ashamed to admit that it’s taken me thirty something years to make my first Christmas cake, but with a very talented (and obliging) cake artist for a mother I always figured, why have a dog and bark yourself?
Amazing cake has always been something we’ve been able to order up and have delivered on demand, as demanding children are wont do. When it came to my wedding cake I decided I wanted three tiers, her only question was, ‘why not four?’ Well why not indeed, Marie Antoinette had it right, knock yourself out cake lady!
She’s shipped cakes all around the country for me and we even flew her in from NZ to Australia make little Z’s first birthday. But apparently summoning the cake fairy on a plane every time I need a cake isn’t feasible expectation (what the…?), so this Christmas I’ve had to fend for myself like the poor little neglected waif I am.
This is an adaptation of one of Mum the cake lady’s recipes that I’ve made gluten-free and paleo friendly. With no gluten, sugar or dairy it’s pretty much the cleanest fruit cake I’ve ever come across. So clean that even I wanted to punch it in the face, so I had to dirty it up a bit with some decadent but damn good quality dark chocolate because it is a scientifically proven fact that there is nothing in this world that cannot be improved with chocolate.
Get this stuff
500 grams mixed fruit – I used a 375 gram bag of the bog standard stuff with raisins, peel etc and sexed it up with chopped figs, dried apricots, dates and gojis to bring it up to half a kilo
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1 tin crushed pineapple in juice
¾ C of liquid of your concoction from fruit juice, cold tea, bit of booze like sherry, brandy or whiskey
I reckon a good lug of plonk is pretty essential when it comes to festive baking, the cake’s meant to get you a bit tipsy isn’t it? I used some whiskey I found in the cupboard that husband later informed me was ‘fucking expensive’ which I was quite pleased about, I don’t want any low quality booze sullying my high-class cake!
1.5 C almond meal
2 T arrowroot
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
optional: 50 grams chopped dark chocolate, chocolate chunks or cacao nibs – I used a mixture of some Loving Earth raw dark chocolate I had lingering around and cacao nibs.
Do this with it
Mix the dried fruit, walnuts and crushed pineapple together then douse in your liquid concoction, mix well and shove it in fridge to soak overnight or longer – I ended up leaving mine to soak for two days while I got around to buying a cake tin. When you take it out the fruit should have absorbed all the liquid and will be all lushly plump and drunk, like a little fruity office party.
Toss in all the other ingredients and mix to ensure everything is thoroughly combined then pour into a greased and lined 6 inch baking tin.
You can totally bake this like a normal ole cake if you want to but, I’m going to let you in on a trade secret also acquired from mum the cake lady. Steam. Steaming your cake will produce an insanely moist cake errrrry time and it’s nigh on impossible to over cook it too – at least you’d have to try pretty damn hard! Bonus for the sometimes inattentive cook like me who often forgets to set a timer.
If you want to try this nifty trick you’ll need to cover the top of your cake with foil to keep the water out or, if you’re using a loose bottomed tin shove the whole thing in an oven bag to stop water leaking into the bottom which will kind of fuck your cake up – there’s deliciously moist and then there’s just soggy. If you don’t have a cake tin you can improvise with any other heat proof cake shaped vessel. I actually used this pyrex dish with a fitted plastic lid which did the job perfectly.
To create your steamer you’ll need a pot with a diameter wide enough to put the tin inside with room around the edges, and deep enough for the lid to fit on – a stock pot is pretty much ideal. You need to keep your cake vessel from sitting directly on the base of the pot so a trivet is a handy tool here but again, not something you need to go and buy if you don’t have one or just don’t know what the fuck a trivet is. I was too lazy to piss around sourcing one so I just used a saucer to sit the tin on to keep it elevated. Place your cake on top of your trivet or trivety-like thing and then pour in enough water to come two-thirds of the way up the side of the tin. Put the lid on the pot, crank the stove top to bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat enough to keep it simmering away – hey presto, it’s cake sauna!
A cake this size should take about 2.5-3 hours or so to steam but as I said, the beauty of this method is that a little extra time won’t do any damage, it’s pretty difficult to overdo a cake when you’re steaming it. Mine ended up being in there for just over three hours while I cooked dinner for a friend and forgot about it a bit.
You can also do the same thing using a slow cooker or crock pot in which case you’d want to cook it overnight or all day. A bit of a peek inside and poke with a skewer will tell you if it’s done or not.
While the whole steaming gig might sound like a bt of fucking around to begin with it’s actually a stupidly simple cooking method. If you’re more of a traditionalist however, you can also bake this bad boy in the oven at 190 degrees for 60 – 90 minutes depending on your oven, again just keep an eye on it an shove a skewer in every so often to check how it’s trucking. Your choice of cooking method all depends on the result you’re after; baking in the oven will produce a firmer cake type cake, steaming will turn out a softer, moister version that almost resembles a steamed pudding which I love.
Another great idea is to use the same mixture then fill individual ramekins or soufflé dishes and steam them the same way to create delicious little individual steamed puddings for a cute Christmas dinner party dessert idea that looks impressive but actually takes no work at all – my favourite sort of dish!
I have to admit that being a fruit cake making Mary (that’s a virgin, see my clever Christmas reference there?!) I was a bit apprehensive but fa la la la la and deck the halls the result is bloody spectacular. Just look at this thing of beauty, a rich, fruit laden Christmas cake loaded with festive cheer – and by festive I mean boozy thanks to my heavy handedness with a bottle – hell, a pregnant lady has to get her kicks where she can!