Saturday, October 24, 2015

October - time to bake the Christmas Cake!

It's a long weekend here in New Zealand, Labour Weekend, commemorating the fight for the right to limit the working day to eight hours - times have changed, and people seem to be limited to 4-5 hours which means they're working several jobs, or are working 12-16 hours... - but anyway, we get one of the best holiday days off, Spring is here, the weather is generally settled (hmmm.  It's pouring with rain as I write this!) and we're ready for a short break after winter ills.  Here in Hawkes Bay we have a four day break, we take the Friday as our Anniversary Day, making this a just plain awesome opportunity to draw breath, go away or get into the garden etc.

It's the time I traditionally make my Christmas cake, which I then feed with brandy (gently spoon brandy over from time to time) until Christmas.  I always use Alison Holst's Pineapple Christmas Cake recipe, which I've used for three tiered wedding cakes for each of my daughters as well.

Alison Holst has been a inspirational cook and promoter of home cooking almost all of my life.  I have many of her cookbooks, and what's more, I USE them!  She was a lovely relate able figure on our tv screens, and I watched her in person demonstrate techniques when she travelled around the regions 30 or so years ago.  She has made a lasting impression on the way we feed our families here.

The recipe is here:

225g butter                              1 cup sugar                             ½ teaspn vanilla
½ teaspn lemon essence        1 teaspn cinnamon                 1 teaspn ginger
1 teaspn mixed spice              ¼ teaspn nutmeg                    3 cups flour
6 eggs                                     500g sultanas                          500g currants
500g mixed fruit                      1 cup drained crushed pineapple
blanched almonds                   cherries                                   ¼ cup brandy

Line a 23cm tin with one or two layers greaseproof or baking paper.  Measure spices and flour into bowl and set aside.  Cream butter, sugar and essences until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour mixture after each to prevent curdling.  Add prepared fruit and pineapple to remaining flour.  Add flour and fruit to creamed mixture and mix thoroughly.  Press evenly into prepared tin.  Use almonds and cherries to decorate top.  Bake at 150° for 1 ½ hours, then at 130° for about 2 hours until skewer comes out clean.  Sprinkle hot cake with brandy.
temperatures are Celsius