- Food & Drink
Port and orange christmas cake
This Sunday is Stir Up Sunday, when the Lord stirs up the wills of the faithful and the English stir up a lot of future indigestion in the form of Christmas puddings. This year Ma G&C is stirring up a flammable fruit pud, so I won’t be shredding suet and steaming great basins of batter on Sunday. If there is anything a household needs just one of in a year, it’s Christmas pudding.
But the arrival of Stir Up Sunday has reminded me that there are just 5 more weekends till Christmas. If I make my Christmas cake now, that means feeding it with just 6 tablespoons of Port before the big day (1 today and 1 on each weekend), which is nothing. I am going to have to double spoon it – I like to set my fruit cakes to stun. And by stun, I don’t mean amaze. I mean incapacitate.
You can use your preferred mix of dried fruit in this cake. I use sultanas, raisins, dried cherries and dried apricots; the apricots roughly chopped. I normally make up the mix with 2/3 sultanas and raisins and then the rest is cherries and apricots. It smells like mulled wine when you bake it. Bring on the Glad Tidings and Joy.
Port and orange Christmas cake
Makes 1 20cm round cake or 2 450g loaf cakes
675g mixed dried fruit (see notes above)
100g whole glacé cherries
Zest and juice of 1 orange
150ml port plus extra for feeding
225g butter plus extra for greasing
255g soft light brown sugar
1 tbsp black treacle
255g plain flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
75g whole hazelnuts
1 Place the dried fruit, chopped if necessary, and glacé cherries in a large bowl and stir in the orange zest and juice and the Port. Cover and leave overnight to soak. You can put the fruit, orange and port into a sealable tub and leave for up to 5 days if you like, or if you keep intending to make the cake but running out of time, which is what I normally do.
2 Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/160°C/fan oven 180°C. Grease the base and sides of a 20cm round cake tin or 2 450g loaf tins with butter. Line the base with baking parchment and line the sides with parchment so it comes 2 inches above the tin. Set aside.
3 Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and combined, then beat in the treacle. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and spices and stir to make a smooth batter. Stir in the fruit, any Port left in the bowl and the hazelnuts.
4 Scrape the batter into the cake tin(s) and level off the top with the back of your spoon or spatula. The cake won’t rise much, so if it’s lumpy and uneven when it goes into the oven, it’ll be lumpy and uneven when it comes out. Bake the cake(s) for 1–11/2 hours until firm to the touch and golden. A skewer inserted should come out relatively clean, depending on how much fruit you hit when you stick it in. If it begins to burn while it’s baking, cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper.
5 Poke a few small holes in the top of the cake(s) with a skewer and pour 1 tbsp port over the top (I’d also use 1 tbsp Port per loaf cake rather than 1/2 tbsp). Cool in tin(s). Once cold, remove from the tin(s) and wrap the baking parchment around the cake, or peel off the old parchment and wrap in a fresh layer, if preferred. Wrap in a layer of foil and store in an airtight tin. Feed the cake(s) once a week with 1–2 tbsp port. The cake(s) will keep for up to a year, although if you’re going to keep it that long you may want to ease up on the weekly feedings or you’ll have to drink it.