Nigella, Mary or Delia? *Part One
Every year I say I’ll make a Christmas cake.
Every year it’s suddenly Christmas day and I’ve grabbed one from the shops.
This year, inspired by my running partner and baking expert Dr. Vicki, I’ve got my raisins together and have embarked on a quest to discover which baking goddess has the best recipe, and most importantly to trial how our Christmas Gluhbier works in the cakes as a substitute for the traditional spirits.
Over the next few weekends I’m going to bake a different cake to compare on Christmas day when I’ll be eating so much that I fully expect to fall into a food-coma by 1pm. All in the name of research!
Top tips to make the best Christmas Cake…with beer!
- Get your festive play list sorted (mine will follow in blog #2)
- Plan your after-cake party: You’ll 100% want to eat something nice, and cake isn’t on the cards for a whole month!
- Soak the fruit in Gluhbier the day before & don’t be tempted to skip this bit. *You’ll need about a bottle initially, but will need a couple of spoons to feed the cake each week/ fortnight.You can drink the rest!
- Use Nigella’s method to line the tin. It’s a bit faffy but is a really neat way of getting good coverage to help the cake stay moist whilst it matures.
- Grease the paper rather than the tin – I always find it sticks better.
- Get yourself a citrus zester, it’s one of my fave things in the kitchen. Soooooo satisfying. I promise it’ll improve your kitchen life!
- If you have a food processor, don’t buy ground almonds, get blanched & make your own.
- Heating a spoon in hot water helps the treacle slide off more easily. Forget that, do it the normal way and lick off the excess – it’s a baker’s perk, not to be missed.
- Build up your guns with Joe Wicks in November – you’re going to need good biceps for stirring up the cake.
- Enjoy a good spoonful of your batter so that if there’s someone else at home you can get massive kudos by offering them the bowl & spoon. If you’re solo baking, you get twice the batter benefit.
- Know your oven! Cake recipes ALWAYS overstate cooking times, and their heat recommendations may be too high or too low for your oven. Check in with your cake after an hour – if it’s starting to catch (get burned on top) turn the oven down a bit and keep a close eye on progress. A cake is ready when you’ve put in a skewer and it’s come out clean, not when the recipe says so.
For cake #1 I bought everything from Lidl aside from a couple of bits I already had in the cupboard, and used Nigella’s Christmas Cake recipe from Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities which I found on The Happy Foodie website
It was great fun to put together and a very straightforward recipe. On the Wednesday after baking we caved in and tasted the cake, purely scientific you understand! It’s a delicious, treacly and warmingly spicy fruit cake, dense and moist and lovely. I’ve packed it up again for proper maturation, so we’ll see how it improves!