We have been “on the road” so much this muddy summer that I quite forgot to make our Christmas cake. (Flickr set here.)
Walking with Doug and watching the tractor ploughing up the barley stubble jolted me from seasonal confusion and behold!, two Christmas cakes are in the larder maturing and steeping in the luxurious aroma of Sheep Dip. (Two because if I’d only made one, someone will “need” to eat it before Christmas).
Since I mentioned this on Facebook I’ve had a few requests from Sheep Dip Fold members for the not-so-secret or jealously guarded recipe.
So, bearing in mind that my culinary skills tend to be a little artistic, in that I rarely weigh anything and substitute ingredients without reservation if I think the result could be improved, here goes.
Spencerfield Christmas Cake
12oz raisins (the soggy moist sort)
12 oz sultanas (as above)
6oz glace cherries – the more expensive (? why) – the un-dyed sort are a nicer colour (rinsed dried and halved)
4 oz whole almonds
4 oz hazelnuts
12 tablespoons of Sheep Dip Malt whisky
10 oz butter
10 oz soft brown sugar
6 free range eggs
8 oz SR flour
8 oz ground almonds
Grated rind of two oranges
Grated rind of two lemons
Juice of one lemon
6 oz whole blanched almonds
Mini bottle of Sheep Dip
I may seem a little old-fashioned, in that I don’t use a mixer, but make my cake in a big mixing bowl – (most modern mixers aren’t big enough to accommodate the ingredients of a big Christmas Cake anyway, and its such a pain washing them, as well as the kitchen walls and ceilings.!)
Our children have always liked to be included in any cake making process -its just the thrill of taking lots of different things and creating something else; art and science combined, and indeed how else will they learn to cook?
The night before: Combine fruit and nuts in a bowl, spoon over six large tablespoons of sheep Dip, breathe in deeply, …aaaahhhhh! cover with a tea towel (the mix, not the cook), and allow to steep and swell overnight.
Next Day: Take a bowl big enough to hold all the ingredients and beat sugar and butter together with a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes paler and fluffy. Whisk the eggs together separately and add to mixture bit by bit with a sprinkling of flour each time. Using a big metal spoon fold in flour and ground almonds, add all fruit and nuts, citrus peel and juice of a lemon and mix until evenly distributed. Pour into a double grease-proof lined and buttered tin 9″ cake tin, even out the surface and arrange blanched almonds lightly on top in a pretty pattern.
Now, I do all our cooking on an AGA so I just pop the cake in the bottom oven and leave it to cook for two and a half or three hours. Then if it looks cooked I take it out and test it. This highly sophisticated testing technique involves sticking a knitting needle into the centre of the cake . When pulled out if the needle is clean with no bits sticking to it the cake has stuck itself together internally and is therefore cooked; it should also feel firm and springy at the centre of the surface. If not pop it back in the oven for another half hour or so and retest – repeat until cooked.
For those who have a proper cooker try around Gas mark 3 or 325F (170C).
When cooked leave the cake to cool for half an hour .
Feed by pouring over the rest of the Sheep Dip….aaaahhh!!!! Double wrap in greaseproof and leave to mature in an air-tight cake tin.
Feed again at the end of October. (Or a month later, depending on baking date.)
The result is a moist, sumptuous cake with a fantastic aroma, lighter and crumblier than traditional Christmas Cake, brilliant after along walk of for a picnic or to share with friends anytime highly recommended with tasty Lancashire Cheese and an obligatory glass of Sheep Dip.
Any probs, I can’t promise but will try and help…drop me an e-mail.
Meanwhile I’m waiting for the first frost – shouldn’t be long now. I’m going to make some sloe whisky – establishment frowns on flavoured whisky but what could be more natural than whisky, honey, sloes and a drop of Pigs Nose…..surely I’m not the first to take local ingredients and combine them into something new?