Festive films, the whole family around the dinner table and a host of festive cheer; although we don’t want to think about it yet, Christmas is quickly approaching. If your Christmas cake is working away in the back of your cupboard or you’ve yet to start baking, there’s still time to create that perfect Christmas pud. It’s said that the longer you give yourself to create this traditional festive treat, the better. But, it’s down to personal taste. If you prefer your Christmas cake rich, then leaving the cake to mature for longer will enhance the flavours of the dried fruit. Traditional Christmas cake recipes suggest that three months is enough time to perfect this fruity masterpiece.
From cooking and storing tips, to feeding and fermenting, here’s all you need to know about creating the perfect Christmas cake.
Once you’ve baked and cooled your Christmas cake, you’ll need to store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. It’s best to wrap your cake in parchment or greaseproof paper and then in foil twice. After wrapping, pop the cake in an airtight container. Do make sure you rewrap your cake properly after you feed it.
Do remember that Christmas cakes can be frozen for up to a year. So, if you’re really organised, make up two batches at once and freeze one for the year to come.
Traditionally Christmas cake has a rich, spicy fruity taste, often associated with brandy but whisky, sherry and fortified wine such as Madeira or port can be used. It’s best to choose a liquor with a high percentage of alcohol (ABV) as these tend to have a longer shelf life, which will help keep the Christmas cake from spoiling. The feeding liquor is all down to personal preference, just make sure you're complementing the rich flavours of the fruit.
If you’re baking an alcohol-free Christmas cake you can use a few tablespoons of orange, cherry, cranberry or apple juice; something sweet to keep the moisture in the cake. You can also soak the fruit in tea if you prefer a less sweet flavour.
As alcohol helps stop the cake from going mouldy over time, if you’re teetotal, bake and store a couple of days before you plan on tucking in as it won’t keep for as long. It’s best to follow a traditional fruit recipe, rather than just subtracting the alcoholic elements as it should give you the correct storing advice.
Poke holes in your cake using a thin skewer to help the liquid seep through the sponge. You only need to use about one or two tablespoons of your chosen liquor or fruit juice. Before you soak it in liquid each week, do check the texture of the sponge. If it feels damp or if it leaves a residue, it’s well fed and you can skip that week.
To stop it from breaking out of the cupboard and gobbling up your family, of course! No, apart from the family peril there are many reasons why you should feed your Christmas cake, all of which are all thankfully less dramatic. It’s important to keep your cake soaked in liquor to stop it from drying out. Alcohol also acts as a preservative and is one of the reasons you can store it for months without it going rotten.
This can be tricky as you don’t want to be left with a soggy cake, but you don’t want a stale one either. The frequency will also depend on how far in advance you want to make your cake. For a richer flavour, mature the fruitcake over 12 weeks. Feeding your Christmas cake once a week during this period should be more than enough time for it to reach its full fruity potential.
There you have it - all the information on how to feed a Christmas cake to help you stay organised ahead of the festive period.
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