I know! It isn’t even the end of October yet! They have had Christmas things in the shops since the beginning of the month! I was told that October was the best month to sell Christmas items. I told the salesperson that if everybody waited until November, then that would be the best month to sell Christmas items. I swear it gets earlier and earlier each year.
However, when it comes to making a Christmas cake, you need to make it at least six weeks ahead of time. I will tell you why later. The English seem to like a very dark fruitcake with lots of raisins, sultanas, glacé cherries and candied peel. They also like to cover it with marzipan and royal icing. Being of Hungarian descent, I don’t mind marzipan, but I really dislike royal icing or any other form of icing. I find it too sweet. I prefer the more fattening and delicious buttercream frosting. In any event, the marzipan and icing help to keep the cake moist, which is why it can be made many weeks in advance.
Many Americans, such as myself, seem to like a lighter cake with nuts and fruit like figs, apricots and dates. I remember that one of our relatives would sometimes order a Texas fruitcake for Christmas. I always loved this cake because of the nuts and cherries. You can now order these cakes in the UK from Collin Street Bakery. 🙂
Having been a vegetarian on and off for many years, I have acquired some excellent vegetarian cookbooks over the years. Even though I am not a vegetarian, I still use these books as I don’t eat much meat and I have a few recipes I am really partial to. One of them is the Christmas Fruit Cake by Anna Thomas in her book The Vegetarian Epicure. (I also have book two!) I have had to adapt the recipe slightly as wheat flour no longer seems to agree with me and so I used spelt flour instead. You can find whole meal spelt flour in the supermarket. It is more difficult to find the white version even though it is made by the same company, but I found it in my local health food store. I also used Marsala wine instead of Sauterne. I also varied the fruit around this year. I bought a tropical fruit mix and used dried cranberries and crystallized ginger pieces for one batch. I also made a batch of the more traditional version as in the book. I have made this cake a few times now and have varied it every time for one reason or another. It comes out great regardless! My daughter and I spent the afternoon making and decorating 7 cakes today!
Chopped fruit: Tropical mix on the left and more traditional version on the right. We chopped these up the night before! There was a lot of fruit to chop up.
The batch with traditional fruits made four 6 inch diameter (medium) cakes. The recipe says it will make 6 medium to small rectangular cakes. We decorated the cakes with pecans, almonds, glacé cherries and crystallized ginger.
The tropical mix made 2 medium cakes and one 9 inch long loaf. Decorated as above.
Now, the reason you need to make the cakes about six weeks in advance is because you need to ‘feed’ the cakes regularly with alcohol. One batch is being fed with brandy and one batch with rum. Can you guess which batch is being fed with rum?
By the time Christmas arrives, you will have one well-fed cake. Be careful though, you mustn’t drive after eating this cake! 😉