This recipe I got from The Guardian online. The Guardian writer called it "Srumpy Christmas cake" but I cant really call mine that, and I'll tell you why. When I saw what was required - i.e, cider, I gleefully added that to my grocery list when I went shopping. I was pretty sure that the smallest amount of cider I could buy was a four-pack, and so it turned out. I figured that Pete would happily drink the remaining 3 cans.
I got back home triumphantly with my four-pack of cider cans, and brandished them at a surprised Pete (he usually buys the alcohol for the house), telling him that I was reserving one of the cans but he could make free use of the other three. He looked at the cans, then at the recipe, then looked at me with a "I dont know how to tell you this, but..." expression on his face.
I asked him what was wrong.
He increased the intensity of the "I dont know how to tell you this, but..." expression and shook his head slightly. Well, what WAS wrong?
It turned out that I'd bought the wrong kind of cider. The gassy carbonated type that wasnt really what the recipe asked for.
"But it said cider," I wailed.
He pointed out that yes, it did say Scrumpy Jack, but if I'd taken two seconds to read more than just the one word, I would have seen that it did not say natural cider.
Here's a resolution for New Year - I'm not going to venture into the alcohol aisles of supermarkets unaccompanied.
In the meantime though, it looked like I had four extra cans of cider for Pete and none for my cake. I was about to set out again for the supermarket when Pete said that I could pour the cider into a vessel and leave it overnight for it to de-carbonate (if there isnt such a word, there is now). That way I could probably use it as per the recipe.
Well, since I wasnt really keen on going back out into the dark and cold evening, I decided to do as he said. After all, he's our resident expert on all things alcohol.
And it worked. The next morning the cider was as still as anybody could wish for (although I have to say that the kitchen smelled somewhat... odd). But that was just the cider deflating, I guess.
The cake turned out very moist and considering the amount of fruit that went into it, quite light in texture. I guess the grated apples helped to keep it moist. I personally would have added half a cup or thereabouts of chopped nuts to the batter, but that's because I like the sweetness of most things to be tempered by something not sweet. (Which is why chocolate with whole hazelnuts is my most favourite.) I decorated the top of the cake with my favourite baking nuts - pecans.
I didnt spike the cake with rum or brandy in the run-up to Christmas, but I did keep it tightly wrapped (one layer of clingwrap and one of foil) until called for. That was about a month or so that the cake spent in its "mummified" state. It tasted pretty good, according to me, and spectacular according to Pete. But then he loves fruitcake.
Recipe for: Cider apple Christmas cake
375g dried figs or prunes, chopped
350g glace cherries
2 small dessert apples (120g) peeled, cored and grated
700ml scrumpy (or other cider)
4 level tsp mixed spice
200g unsalted butter, softened
175g dark soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
150g ground almonds
275g plain flour
2 level tsp baking powder
1. A day before baking the cake, preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F.
2. Put the fruit, scrumpy and spice in a casserole, cover with foil and bake for an hour and a half. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes.
3. Cover, and leave on a worktop overnight. You should be left with plump fruit and little juice.
4. Next day, double or triple line a 20-25cm square deep cake tin with baking parchment.
5. Beat the butter and sugar, beat in the eggs, then fold in the fruit and nuts.
6. Sift the flour and baking powder, and beat through.
7. Spoon into the tin (decorate the top with nuts if you like).
Cover with foil and bake at 160C (150C fan-assisted)/325F for 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 40 minutes more until a skewer comes out clean.
8. Cool completely before cutting. The cake can be stored tightly wrapped for upto 2 months, probably longer.