There are some parts of a Christmas celebrations in Britain which can and must not ever change, and that is the Traditional Christmas Cake. No British Christmas is ever complete without this classic treat Cake on the table.
The temperature is low as the cake needs a long slow bake. It is packed with sugars, fruits and brandy and if the temperature is any higher the outside of the cake will burn and the inside be undercooked.
Line a 23cm (9") cake tin with 2 thicknesses of parchment or greaseproof paper. This acts as an insulator and to prevent the cake from burning on the outside
In a large roomy baking bowl mix the currants, sultanas, raisins, peel and cherries with the flour, salt and spices.
In another large bowl cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.
Stir in the lemon zest. Add the beaten egg to the butter mixture a little bit at a time, beating well after each addition
do not try to rush this process as the mixture could curdle. If it does curdle simply add a tbsp of flour and mix again, this should bring the mixture back together. If it doesn't come back together
Carefully fold in half the flour and fruit into the egg and butter mixture, once incorporated repeat with the remaining flour and fruit.
Finally add the brandy.
Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin making sure there are no air pockets. Once filled smooth the surface with the back of s spoon and make a slight dip in the center (this will rise back up again during cooking and create a smooth surface for icing the cake).
Finally, using a piece of paper towel clean up any smears of cake batter on the greaseproof wrapping, if left on they will burn
bake for 4½ hours.
If the cake is browning too rapidly, cover the tin with a double layer of greaseproof or parchment paper after 2½ hours.
During the cooking time avoid opening the oven door too often as this may cause the cake to collapse.
After 4½ hours check the cake is cooked. The cake should be nicely risen and a deep brown all over. Insert a skewer or fine knife into the centre of the cake. If there is sticky dough on the skewer when you pull it out it needs cooking longer, if it is clean, the cake's done and remove from the oven.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin on a wire rack for an hour, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely.
Once cooled prick the surface of the cake with a fine metal skewer and slowly pour over 2 - 3 tbsp brandy.
This should be repeated every two weeks up until Christmas.
The cake should be stored wrapped in greaseproof or parchment paper in an airtight tin.
Preheat oven to 190 C / Gas 5. Line three baking trays with baking parchment.
Prepare a pastry bag with a plain 1.25cm piping nozzle.
Separate the eggs.
Whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 of the sugar and all of the vanilla. Beat until very light coloured. This will take about 5 minutes.
In a clean bowl beat the egg whites until they hold soft peeks.
While beating, slowly add the salt and the remaining sugar until combined.
Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.
Sieve the flour over the egg mixture and gently fold it in.
Fill the pastry bag with half of the batter and pipe 9cm fingers, 4cm apart, in rows on the baking parchment. Continue with the second half of the batter in the same manner.
Bake at 190 C / Gas 5 for about 15 minutes until firm to the touch and golden.
Remove the paper and fingers from the baking tray and place on racks to cool. After cooling, remove fingers from the paper and use or store between layers of greaseproof paper in a airtight container. These freeze well.
Classic jam roly poly This delicious pudding will bring back all of your childhood memories. Feel free to use any flavour jam you prefer. It’s the perfect winter comfort food. Serve with lashings of fresh custard.
Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Place it in the fridge for a few minutes until the flour feels cold. Starting out with cold flour makes better puff pastry.
Stir the butter into the flour using the blade of a dinner knife until each piece is well coated.
Add the water, then quickly use the knife to bring everything together.
Using one hand, grab the pastry in the bowl and place it on the work surface. Shape it to a very flat roll only by pressing on it, and not by kneading it. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface in one direction to a rectangle about 1cm thick and measuring about 45x15cm. Keep the sides straight by shaping them with your hands. The top and bottom edges should be as square as possible.
Fold the bottom third of the pastry up and the top third down so it makes a 15x15cm piece. If your piece is slightly larger or smaller, that is OK too, as long as the corners are neat.
Rotate the pastry so that its open side is facing to the right side like a book. Use a rolling pin to press the edges together
Repeat the rolling out and folding of the pastry as described, a total of four times. There will be little specks of butter scattered all over the pastry. If at any point the pastry feels too soft or starts springing back when you roll it out, it has become too warm. In that case wrap it in cling wrap and chill for 10 minutes, then continue the rolling and folding.
Wrap the pastry and chill for at least 1 hour, better overnight.
To use, roll the pastry out about 3mm thick. Brush with beaten egg yolk if desired (it gives it a nice golden colour) and bake at 200 C / Gas 6 until golden brown and puffed up, about 30 minutes.
This recipe provides the wrapping or covering for many pies and tarts, both sweet and savoury. Follow individual recipe instructions for methods of use and baking. This recipe makes enough to line a deep 20-23cm (8-9 inch) flan tin or to cover a large pie dish for serving 4-6.
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Sprinkle with 3 tbsp of cold water and mix in using a round-bladed knife. Add a drop more water only if the dough will not clump together. With your hands, gather together into a firm but pliable dough, handling as little as possible
Wrap the ball of dough in greaseproof paper or cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling out