Mastering the basics: How to feed your Christmas Cake

Congratulations you took up the challenge and made your own Christmas cake. Now you just have to “feed” it until you are ready to eat or decorate the cake.

If you are like I was the first time I made a fruit cake, you might be a bit confused about how to feed your Christmas cake. Don’t worry though, it is an easy procedure and only takes about 1 minute every two weeks. Just follow the simple steps below and you won’t go far wrong.

  • Choose your feeding alcohol; in the past I have used dark rum, Brandy, Spiced rum, and amaretto. However, you can use any kind of alcohol as long as it isn’t creamy.
  • Poke several holes in your cake using a skewer or cocktail stick.
  • Every week or two pour a tablespoon or two of your feeding liquor onto your cake. I use a pastry brush to lightly spread the alcohol around to ensure an even spread. Some people I know also flip the cake each feeding, but I have never bothered.
  • Once your cake is fed wrap it in a layer of baking parchment and foil.
  • Store your cake in an air tight container.
  • Stop feeding your cake a week before decorating to give it time to dry.
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Another year, another Christmas Cake 

A few years ago I made the family a Christmas cake and every year since it has fallen on my shoulders to make another. Occasionally I try a different recipe, but Delia’s Classic Christmas cake is still the recipe that I think is best. It holds the booze well, it has the right balance of fruit and spice and it keeps for ages so you can make it weeks in advance and feed it up with alcohol to make it even more delicious.

WARNING: Beware, if you make this cake, then you will be required to repeat the following process every year until the end of time.

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Delia Smith’s Classic Christmas Cake

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  • Preparation time: 45 minutes + decorating
  • Baking time: 4 1/2-4 3/4 hours
  • Makes: 10-12 decent sized slices
  • Skill level: moderate

Ingredients

  • 450g currants
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g raisins (I substitute the raisins for mixed dried fruit)
  • 50g glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
  • 3tbsp brandy
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp ground mixed spice
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 g flaked almonds
  • 1 dessert spoon black treacle
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange

Equipment

  • A 20cm round or an 18cm square cake tin, greased and lined with a double thickness of baking parchment. Tie a band of baking parchment around the outside of the tin for extra protection.
  • An electric mixer.
  • Two large, and several smaller mixing bowls.

Method

The night before you are going to bake this cake weigh out the dried fruit and peel, place it in a mixing bowl and mix in the brandy as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl and leave the fruit to absorb the booze for 12 hours.

Top tip: the black treacle will be easier to measure if you remove the lid, and place the tin in a small pan of barely simmering water.

  1. Heat the oven to 140 C/275 F/gas 1.
  2. Measure out all the ingredients. Make a list and tick them off as you go to ensure they are all there.
  3. Begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give it a good airing.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it is light, pale and fluffy.
  5. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Add them to the creamed mixture (butter and sugar) a tablespoon at a time, keeping the mixer running until all the egg is incorporated. This method should ensure that the mixture does not curdle, but if it does, don’t worry.
  6. Once all the eggs have been added, fold in the flour and spices gently. Do not use the mixer (this is preserve the precious air).
  7. Fold in the fruit, peel, chopped nuts and treacle, and finely the grated lemon and orange zests.
  8. Using a large spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon. (If you don’t intend ice the cake, lightly drop whole blanched almonds all over the surface).
  9. Cover the cake with a double piece of baking parchment with a 50p sized (1 inch) hole cut in the center.
  10. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4½-4¾ hours until it feels springy in the center when lightly touched. Sometimes it can take an extra ½-¾ hours longer, but in any case DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR FOR AT LEAST 4 HOURS.
  11. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it is cold “feed it”, wrap it in double baking parchment, secured with an elastic band, and either wrap again in foil or place it in an air tight tin.
  12. Continue feeding your cake at regular intervals until you are ready to eat or decorate your cake.

Mastering the basics: how to line a cake tin like a professional

This weekend I am baking a Christmas cake so I have plenty of time to feed it up with booze before the big day. The hardest part of my cake recipe is lining the tin so that my cake is protected during baking… And so it comes effortlessly out of the tin.

To make this process easier, I always review a couple of handy YouTube videos to remind me how to easily and effectively line my tin.

The following videos are the best methods I have come across.

If you have any sure-fire methods of lining a tin, please share them in the comments below.

Simple Sides: Savoy Cabbage with Worcestershire Sauce

I am always looking for ways to make vegetables more delicious, and this recipe fits that bill perfectly. It reminds me of the lovely braised red cabbage that my grandmother used to make (a tradition that I continue) every Christmas.

Savoy Cabbage with Worcestershire Sauce

  • Preparation time: less than 5 minutes
  • Cooking time: 10 minutes
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Skill level: easy

Ingredients

  • 1 large Savoy cabbage (this will work with other cabbages)
  • olive oil
  • 90ml/3fl oz Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 knobs of butter

Method

  1. Remove the leaves of the cabbage, discarding the core. Roll them into a cigar shape and finely slice. Put a large frying pan, or wok on the stove on a high heat and add a glug of olive oil. Add the cabbage to the pan and move it around. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes, keeping an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t catch.
  2. Add the Worcestershire sauce. Keep the cabbage moving around to ensure it gets nicely coated and doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add the knobs of butter.
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s book Cook With Jamie

Sausage and Butternut Squash Casserole 

Autumn has arrived in Britain, and this is a perfect dish for these cold dark evenings. As an added bonus, it is also pretty easy to make.

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Sausage and Butternut Squash Casserole

  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
  • Serves: 4 to 6
  • Skill level: easy

Ingredients

  • 50g butter
  • 6-8 sausages (best-quality you can afford)
  • 1 onion thinly sliced
  • 3 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (I used a garlic crusher)
  • 1 tbsp chopped sage
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeds and gunk removed, cut into equal sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 200g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 500ml chicken stock

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180º C/350º F/gas 4
  2. Heat half the butter in a large casserole pot over a medium heat and fry the sausages for 5 minutes, or until golden brown all over.
  3. Add the remaining butter, onion and shallots and fry for 3 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and sage leaves and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring well.
  4. Add the squash,stir to combine and turn the heat up high. Add the vinegar and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the sugar, then pour in the tomatoes, beans and chicken stock, season to taste, and bring to the boil.
  5. Transfer the casserole to the oven for 1 hour or until the sausage is cooked through and the squash is tender.