Here we are, 6 weeks out from Christmas.
Some super organised people have already begun their Christmas Day preparations, like my best friend who sent me a text on Monday to say she had completed all of her present purchases....it was the 11th November!! I wish I could be like this and resolve with myself each year that next year I will be more organised, but the truth is, I run well to deadlines! In some macabre way, my body seems to thrive on the whole 'last minute' vibe. Just once though, I would love to try an organised Christmas to see how it feels.
One thing however that I am always organised with is cooking our family Christmas Cake six weeks out from Christmas. This is a recipe I found in a magazine many years ago (yep, I can't even take credit for it!) and have been making it each year since we married. This Christmas fruit cake has a twist on the traditional....chocolate is one of the main ingredients! Now that is what I call a Christmas cake. This cake smells divine when cooking and tastes delicious. So there was no way this year I was going to keep this little beauty to myself. As I say, some secrets are best when shared!
I read somewhere once that when cooking your Christmas cake, it is tradition to get each family member to stir the mixture once, making a wish for the following year as they do so. Maybe it is an old wives tale. Either way, it is a bit of fun and can't hurt, so we do it!
CHRISTMAS CHOCOLATE FRUIT CAKE
Serves: 16 - 20 Prep: 15 mins (+ 2 hours cooling time) Cooking: 2.5 hours
Fruit cake is best stored in an airtight container in a cool cupboard or in the fridge in warmer weather, for up to 2 months.
850g (5 1/4 cups) mixed dried fruit
150g dark chocolate, chopped
250g butter, chopped
200g (1 cup, firmly packed) dark brown sugar
250mls (1 cup) whisky (feel free to vary this...I use whatever I have: port, sherry etc)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
225g (1 1/2 cups) plain flour
50g (1/3 cup) self-raising flour
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
145g (3/4 cup) dark choc bits (I use the whole 250g packet....it's chocolate!!!)
60g blanched almonds (due to nut allergies in our family I use Icing Sugar dusted over)
1. Line the base and sides of a deep round 22cm cake pan with 3 thicknesses of non-stick baking paper bringing the paper 5cm above the side of the pan.
2. Combine dried fruit, chocolate, butter, sugar and whisky in a large saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat for 5 minutes or until the butter and chocolate have melted.
3. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a large heat resistance bowl. Set aside for 2 hours to cool. (I just leave it in the saucepan to cool).
4. Add the eggs to the fruit mixture and use a wooden spoon to mix until well combined. Sift together the flours, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add the dry ingredients and choc bits to the fruit mixture and mix well (making your wish!)
5. Turn your oven on to 150 deg C. Pour the mixture into the lined pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Decorate with the almonds (if using). Bake in the oven for 2 hours and 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cover the cake loosely with the foil after 1 3/4 hours. Remove from the oven and cover the cake in the pan tightly with foil. Wrap in a tea towel and allow to cool completely overnight.
The following day, I then wrap an additional 2 - 3 tea towels around the cake and put it aside until it is required on Christmas Day. I then remove the cake and dust it lightly with icing sugar. I will even use some stencils shaped like holly to give it a Christmas-ey appearance.
Enjoy this delicious cake. You won't be disappointed. Happy Baking!