Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas Cakes!

For the past 25 years I have been using a Christmas Cake recipe from The Farmhouse Kitchen by Mary Norwak.  This book is so old, I can't find a picture of it online and since I'm too lazy to take a picture and upload it, you'll just have to imagine.  I found this book on a sale table in front of a grocery store in about 1986.  It's absolutely delightfully chock full of English photos and English recipes that require translation. 

The messiest page is 209 which includes Special Christmas Cake.  (For those who don't cook:  messy = well used.)  Interestingly, it also includes Miss Pedeltys Christmas Cake which I haven't tried.  Yet.  Even though it has a much more whimsical name.  I have a feeling Miss Pedelty was a teetotaler.  I notice a lack of (much) brandy in that recipe, which means that I probably won't be trying it.  Because you absolutely have to have brandy in your Christmas Cake or else, what's the point?  Not only that, but you make them early and let them ripen in a puddle of brandy.  So there.

It's not so much a puddle as a basting

UPDATE:  One of my loyal readers has written and requested Miss Pedelty's Christmas Cake (see comments below) so I am publishing it here.  I'm sorry if I'm in violation of copyright laws but this person has tried in vain to find the recipe.  So here it is:

8 oz butter
8 oz Demerara sugar
5 eggs
10oz plain flour
2 oz ground almonds
8 oz sultanas
8 oz currants
4 oz peel
4 oz glace cherries
2 oz chopped almonds
1 tsp mixed spice
1 grated orange rind
1 grated lemon rind
1.5 fl oz rum
1/4 pint milk

Mix like the previous cake (cream together butter and sugars til light and fluffy.  Beat eggs well and add gradually with a little of the sifted flour and spices.  Fold in the rest of the ingredients.  Turn into prepared tin and make a slight hollow in the center.) bake for 2.5 to 3 hours at 325° F, 170° C, gas mark 3.  This makes a nice Christmas cake which will keep moist for a long time.

And since I put that recipe in, I may as well include the recipe I use, which is called:

Special Christmas Cake (In parenthesis I have included the conversion and doubled the recipe, which is the way I make mine every Christmas)

10oz butter (2 1/2 C)
5 oz caster sugar (1 1/4 C)
5 oz light soft brown sugar (1 1/4 C)
5 eggs (10)
12 oz plain flour, sifted (3 C)
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (1 t)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon (1 1/2 t)
8 oz currants (2 C)
8 oz sultanas (2 C)
8 oz seedless raisins (2 C)
4 oz glace cherries - quartered (1 C)
4 oz chopped candied peel (1 C)
1 lemon (2)
4 oz chopped walnuts (1 C)
2 T brandy (4 T)

Grease and line an eight-inch tin (2 tins) and tie a band of brown paper round the outside. (Follow steps from above recipe.) Bake at 300° F, 150° C, gas mark 2 for two hours, then reduce heat to 275° F, 140° C, gas mark 1 for two hours.  Cover top with a sheet of paper if getting too brown.  Keep for three weeks before cutting.  This makes a lovely moist cake.

So I made my Christmas Cakes a couple of weeks ago, dribbled brandy all over them and wrapped them up.  That's when I noticed that sometime between moving out of the old house we had lived in for 21 years, moving to our interim residence, then finally (FINALLY) into Wellington, I seem to have misplaced my Christmas cake tin.  It's not that I didn't make the cakes last year (I did).  I was just on cloud nine and must not have noticed the tins were missing.  But this year I've noticed and there can only be two explanations.  1.  they're in the garage somewhere; 2.  The Hub donated them to someone else.  I'm guessing #2.  It's my belief that you can never have too many tins, and in this belief I am apparently alone when it comes to my marriage.  So I say it's time to shop for a new old tin.  Until then, they are napping in my Tupperware cake keeper.  I have a feeling that's where last year's cakes spent a good part of their holiday season, but it's mostly a blur so I can't be sure.

Speaking of Christmas Cakes, I am currently reading a book entitled An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor.  It's very evocative which is the whole point of Christmas stories.  One scene in this book deals with the cook showing a woman how she decorates her Christmas Cakes.  I follow a very similar method.   First I roll out a layer of marzipan.  Then I mold it over the cake.  Then I make a royal icing and spread it on.  Finally I create a snow scene with tiny Christmas ornaments I save year after year.

But for now, the Christmas Cakes are ripening in the pantry in my Tupperware container.  I'll add an update once they're decorated which should be around December 20.  Or if I manage to find new tins.  (For those who aren't British:  Christmas Cake = fruit cake.)  (I'm only British by marriage.)  (But I'm counting it, especially at Christmas.)


  1. Hi Stephanie. I am over here in England desperately searching for Mrs Pedelty's Christmas cake recipe! I had the Mary Norwak book for years, from 1989 when I married until last year when I lent it to my kids who were sharing a house with lots of friends - now the book has disappeared. That same page was well used too, ie splattered! I always liked the recipe because the cake turns out quite crumbly and pale which is the way I like them. I would love it so much if you had a spare 5 minutes to write out the ingredients for me. I can almost remember it but not quite. Don't worry if you don't have the time, it's just amazing to find somebody who knows the book - I just Googled Mrs Pedelty's Christmas cake recipe which led me to you. The amazing power of the Internet. Good luck with your cake tin search and have a fabulous Christmas and New Year. Clare

  2. Hello Clare! I have included the requested recipe in the post. Have a happy Christmas!