Christmas 2012: Nigel Slater's Christmas Cake

12/21/2012 11:42:00 PM

Nigel Slater's Christmas cake, Pyengana Cheddar

It's the Friday night before Christmas, and I've taken Monday off work, so it's going to be a five-day weekend for me. Woohoo! It's been a hectic few weeks, but I finally have some time for a little rest! We're having our big festive family feast on Christmas Eve, and we already did all the shopping tonight after work. Gifts are (finally) all organised too! So for now all I need to do is curl up on the couch with a thick slice of Christmas cake and a mug of tea. Bliss!

For this year's Christmas cake, I decided to return to an old favourite: Nigel Slater's Christmas Cake. The recipe appears in his books: Appetite, (where it's simply, and aptly, titled: "A Big Fruit Cake"), and also in The Kitchen Diaries. Luckily for those of you who don't have these books, it's also available online - Nigel has posted the Christmas Cake recipe in his Guardian column.

The last time I made it was three years ago (see Christmas Cake post here) and it was definitely due for a repeat! (Just quietly, I like Nigel's Christmas Cake much better than Nigella's Classic Christmas Cake. Although having said that, I remember really liking her Chocolate Fruit Cake - so perhaps I'll give that a go again next year).

But, back to Nigel's cake: I baked it at the start of the month, and let it mature for twenty torturous days, only digging into it this week! Please, a round of applause at my amazing self-restraint. (Well, I did have a little sneak preview, but I'll tell you about that below).

I chose Calvados for my "feeding brandy" of choice - I got the idea from the lovely Gemma at Dressing for Dinner, and thought it sounded amazing. I still have the expensive bottle of Calvados I bought almost seven years ago for my Sarah Discovers How to Eat project - it's been with me through five jobs and three houses, and you know what? It was time to stop saving it and start enjoying it!

That's not to say that I'd be pouring the Calvados willy nilly - this is definitely a cake worthy of a $70 bottle of booze! I love the buff, cappuccino-coloured batter...
Obligatory whisk shot
I also really like the pleasing graininess of the different dried fruits. I found a packet of "fruit salad" dried fruits at the supermarket, which contained pretty much the perfect amounts of dried apples, pears, peaches, apricots and prunes, and were of an impressive quality. I just needed to add some dried figs and glacé cherries.
"Fruit Salad" mixed dried fruits

There are, of course, sultanas, raisins, currants and dried cranberries!
Cranberries, raisins, sultanas, currants
The whole cake is pretty easy to make - in fact, the hardest thing about it is chopping up all the sticky dried fruits. But it's worth it - look how pretty they all are - like gleaming jewels!
Christmas cake batter
Cake, pre-baking
I bought a deep 20-cm tin years ago, but have no idea where I put it, so I ended up using a normal 20cm springform tin and had quite a bit of batter leftover. I baked the remainder in mini-foil muffin tins. Cute, right?

Mini Christmas Cakes
This also meant that - muahaha! - I got to eat one on the same day it was baked! Christmas cake always smells so good baking, and it's so hard not digging in straight away! Of course, they taste better after having matured, but that freshly-baked aroma is just too tantalising to resist...
Mini Christmas cake on day of baking

Shall we have a look at the large cake, after its maturation time?
Christmas cake
I'm know there's a school of thought that prefers cute little mini-Christmas cakes, especially all tied up in pretty ribbons to be given as gifts. (And if there's a time to indulge your love of twee and dainty crafts, surely Christmas is it). However, I actually love the glorious, hefty stodginess of one large cake - especially when it's undecorated. It's so uncompromisingly old-fashioned and plain - no need for bells and whistles, white icing or the like. It practically cries out: "I am fruitcake, love me".

Christmas cake

Honestly, I know that one full-sized fruitcake is far too much for one household to eat over the Christmas period. Rather than trying to scale it down, however, I love the idea of gifting people generous wedges of the cake, wrapped up rustically in waxed paper and tied with kitchen string.

Christmas cake
As you've seen, I've been eating this cake with a sharp cheddar on the side. I fell in love with the sharp-cheese-sweet-spiced-pastry combo back when I made Heston Blumenthal's Eccles Cake with Potted Stilton. At the time, my friend Kate suggested Christmas cake with a sharp cheese as an alternative, and ever since then I've been looking forward to trying this out. (And if you think about it, it's not too different from having dried fruit on a cheeseboard.) Such a fabulous combination! I felt it was a rather grown-up, chic way of serving the cake. (If "chic" is really a word you can apply to fat wodges of British fruit cake and crumbly cheese!)

If you love fruit cake like me, then this truly is the one to try.

I am super, duper excited for Christmas!! Speaking of excitement, I was pretty chuffed when Nigel himself responded to one of my early tweets about the Christmas cake. Fangirl freakout!

I hope Nigel's right! I'm really looking forward to Christmas! I hope you all have a great little break!

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  1. The cake + cheese combo is genius! Something I should try myself when I dig into my Christmas cake :)

    Happy holidays to you, and enjoy the break!

  2. What an exciting Christmas gift hearing from Nigel himself! :D And well done on waiting the requisite time! I hope you and your family have a fantastic Christmas! :D

  3. Cake looks amazing. I can just hear Nigel's voice saying that tweet!

    Season's Greetings

  4. OMG OMG OMG I would total freak as well if Nigel or Nigella or Jamie Oliver hahaha one of the chefs that I admire replied to my tweet :) David Lebovitz replied once and I was already over the moon hehe ~

    A shame that you don't like Nigella's Classic Christmas cake very much :) Doesn't matter because Nigel's cake is just as pretty!

  5. Nigel himself?? You're totes famous :D!!!!

  6. Nigel replied to one of my tweets too!! Glad to hear you enjoyed the cake - it really is a beauty. I made a 20cm one for my family and a smaller one just for us which I used a 5" tin to bake, my calculations were slightly off though so I ended up with a small but very tall cake - good job it was a deep tin!

  7. Sophie - It's so addictive! I love dried fruit and cheese.

    Lorraine - Thank-you so much! I freaked out a bit (ok, a lot!) when I saw that tweet!

    Pip - Thank-you! A belated merry Christmas to you too :)

    Daisy - I LOVE David Lebovitz, so I think that's really exciting too!

    Nic - Haha *squeeeee*

    Gemma - So cool! I remember seeing that tweet (and your lovely post on Christmas cake!) Tall cakes are very majestic, perfect for Christmas!

    xox Sarah



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