Post-Christmas greetings to you all and hope you had a fine old festive time and are having a fabulous New Year celebration. I wasn't sure whether to put this up, as we've gone past the Christmas period, but it seemed somehow wrong to let this time of year go by without popping a recipe on the blog. So here's a Christmas cake that doesn't have to be restricted to Christmas. I think that might be what's called 'having your cake and eating it'. (Sorry, had to be done!) Plus, I wanted to show off the snaps. It's a fine looking cake - all colourful and shiny, and definitely one to use to impress friends and relatives.
It's a Nigella, of course. These days everything I make at Christmas seems to be a Nigella. She's just so damn reliable. She says that it's an Italian Christmas cake, and so I take her word for it, though I've never come across it myself. Basically it's a lovely, apple-y fruit cake with the inspired addition of some chocolate pieces and some decoration with fruit and nuts on top for the full impact. Every mouthful is slightly different, which I quite like.
75g seedless raisins
350g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g clear honey
150g caster sugar
40g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon anise or fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
375g Cox apples (2 medium), roughly grated
200g blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
50g pine nuts
75g bitter chocolate, chopped
75g walnuts, chopped
25cm Springform cake tin, buttered and lined
for decoration (this is vague as it's whatever you want really. I just used jam, glace cherries, walnuts and almonds)
4 tablespoons apricot jam to glaze
natural coloured glace cherries
blanched whole almonds
Soak the raisins in the Marsala for 20 minutes, and while they're steeping, preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Measure the flour and bicarb into a large bowl. Heat the honey, sugar, butter and water in saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add the anise or fennel seeds and cinnamon, pour this mixture over the bowl of flour and bicarb, and stir to combine.
Mix in all the other ingredients, not forgetting the soaked raisins and their liquid, then spoon into the tin and cook for 3/4 - 1 hour; and should you find the cake needs that final 15 minutes, you may need to cover it with foil to stop it catching. When the cake has cooled, heat the apricot jam in a small pan and, using a pastry brush (or, in my case, a bit of greaseproof paper, which worked surprisisingly well), paint most but not all of it over the top of the cake to glaze and give a sticky surface to which fruits and so forth will adhere. Decorate with glace fruits and nuts of your choice, leaving no gaps of cake visible on top. Brush with scant remaining glaze so all looks burnished and shiny.
PS While looking for a recipe for onion gravy to go with my New Year's Eve toad in the hole, I came across this blog: www.gastronomydomine.com, which seems to be run by my fantasy self in the future. She writes fab recipes, knows about cocktails and even lives in Cambridge. It feels somehow fitting to start the new year with a new real life heroine.