Could I feel any more smug after making my Christmas cake? It’s sitting outside in the kitchen as I type – wrapped in foil, in a tin, in the press. (Don’t ask, but you don’t put Christmas cake in a ‘cupboard’, you put it in a ‘press’). The creation is officially my pride and joy – but don’t worry, I won’t mind sharing it. If it cuts well that is. (The pressure…)
By my reckoning, the cake’s blessings are three-fold. Firstly, I love anything curranty – curranty cake, curranty bread, curranty scones – you name it, I’ll adore it. I gave a fellow shopper a fright in Aldi when I squealed at the discovery (in October, how would I resist?) that the curranty, marzipany wonder that is Stollen was already in. The only time I came near to having a panic attack was when I thought they’d run out of the fruit section of the wedding cake at my cousin’s reception. Need I go on?
Secondly, we’ll have something for callers over Christmas. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure we’ll necessarily have any, but if we do, let’s just say they’ll be sanctimoniously served my cake. Like Mrs. Doyle I won’t be taking ‘no thanks’ for an answer and all comments / feedback / compliments will be most welcome. “Oh, it was nothing really, just something I threw together,” I’ll casually quip as my tasters ooh and aah… In my daydream, some even suggest I publish a Christmas cook book – “No seriously! You just have to!” (I’m one of those irritating people who takes everyone’s polite flattery to heart).
Lastly though, I did it because it’s just nice to have some Christmas cake in the house. My mother always made one at home and it signalled the kick-off of the season. We would help sort through the fruit for tiny stalks (because a Christmas cake is so special, you painstakingly do this) and the smell of it baking… just heaven. It was there to unwrap and slice up after lunch or dinner or whenever over the holidays, keeping the yuletide feeling going well into the New Year.
I feel we might all agree that Christmas has changed an awful lot in recent years. It now kicks off right after Halloween and, like a jolly, glitzy stalker, follows you around and pesters you until you relent and finally acknowledge that yes, yet another year is nearly at an end and it’s time to celebrate another Christmas. It may be getting bigger and brasher but really, deep-down, we love this time most of all because it’s an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the traditions we hold dear and to indulge those we love. A Christmas cake ticks all the boxes.
I won’t pretend it was easy. I love to procrastinate – I like to stare a deadline in the face and just about pull the whole thing off by the skin of my teeth – Ta Daaa! And so it was with this cake, for which I’d bought the ingredients weeks ago but difficulty tracking down the right tin, making a start and – finally – assembling it all threw me several curve balls. But I emerged victorious! The cake cannot be cut within three weeks. Christmas is exactly three weeks and four days away. Ah HAH! Deadline met! I had the cake in the oven when I realised I had left out a good portion of the ‘dry ingredients’ (queue heart attack) and two hours into the three-and-a-half-hour bake time I was alarmed to note that my cake already appeared ‘cooked’ (eek). How and ever, we persevered, made some difficult decisions and, well… it certainly looks the part.
It’s a bit burnt and as yet un-iced – just like my Mam’s, in both respects. So I’m definitely in keeping with tradition. If it tastes half as good as hers you’ll be hearing all about it.
(In case you’re interested, the recipe I used was from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’).