Carter family Christmas cake
The original rich fruit cake recipe came from an old St Michael baking book, but over the years I’ve adapted it to lean towards ginger, whisky and walnuts. The smell of the cake mixture instantly transports me back to childhood, when every member of the family took turns to have a stir and make a wish.
Over the years, this memory has been joined by other happy ones. It was my go-to recipe when making friends’ wedding cakes, and one year I made a whole dormitory of little penguin bed cakes to give as Christmas presents whilst heavily pregnant with our first child.
We brought our daughter home from the hospital late on Christmas eve and I used our own Christmas cake as fuel over the next couple of weeks, during all of those long night feeds. Towards the end of my second pregnancy, despite it being the height of summer, I baked myself a Christmas cake to help me through those first few difficult days!
Ginger, whisky + walnut fruit cake
Makes a generously deep 23 cm round cake
- 1 kg mixed vine fruits (sultanas, raisins, currants, etc)
- 200 g glace cherries, halved
- 100 g mixed peel
- 100 g stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated
- 1 orange, zest finely grated
- 60 ml whisky, plus extra for maturing the cake
- 325 g salted butter, softened
- 325 g dark muscovado sugar
- 2 tbsp treacle or molasses
- 8 large eggs
- 400 g plain flour
- 75 g ground hazelnuts
- 3 tsp mixed spice
- 150 g walnuts, chopped
- Mix the vine fruits with the cherries, mixed peel, ginger, grated zest and whisky. Leave to macerate overnight.
- Line the base and sides of a 23 cm round cake tin with two layers of greaseproof paper and a newspaper collar – here’s my step-by-step guide!
- Preheat the oven to 140°C (120 fan) | 275°F | gas 1.
- Cream the butter with the sugar and treacle until really well whipped.
- Add the eggs, flour, ground almonds and mixed spice and beat for 3 minutes or until smooth and glossy.
- Fold in the soaked fruit and walnuts, then let each family member take a turn stirring and making a wish. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.
- Bake for 2 hours 30 minutes. Insert a skewer into the centre of the cake – if it comes out clean, the cake is ready, if not, return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes before testing. It’s likely to take closer to 3 hours 30 minutes, but be patient and just test again at 15-minute intervals if it still isn’t ready. Don’t be tempted to increase the oven temperature to speed things up – it will just burn the top and dry out the sides.
- Poke a few holes in the top with a skewer and drizzle over a measure of whisky. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
- Remove the cake from the tin, but leave the greaseproof paper attached. Wrap the whole cake in another sheet of greaseproof paper, followed by a double layer of clingfilm or foil.
- Leave to mature in a cool dark place – a couple of months is ideal, though it’ll still be great if you can only manage a fortnight or two. I like to unwrap the cake and “feed” it with a shot of whisky once a fortnight (or once a week if I’ve left it a bit too close to Christmas!).