Friday, January 3, 2014

Christmas is here!

And you have two recipes! First up, Christmas Cake.

When I moved to Delhi in 2010 the Dragon and I were thrilled with our spanking new house and decided we wanted to have a christmas party. We made many plans but I don't remember if we did bake all the things we planned, and we didn't have many guests--only the Glare if I remember right--but I did make my hero Joe's Old School Fruitcake for the party. And dear lord in heaven. I decided immediately that I had to make it every single year. And thus was born the annual Christmas Cake Party, in it's fourth edition this year.

In 2011, I was living with a very strange and warped woman in a flat in Alaknanda, with no friends, spiralling into deep depression. I called a few people I sorta knew, The Glare of course turned up in staunch support, but it was one of those parties I used to have, with about 8 people at it. I'd just met Chocolate Boy on OKCupid and so I invited him, and he brought a couple of his friends--one of whom was Mad Writer. And so began something that was going to change my life.

In 2012, I was in the same flat, but living on my own. I actually had some friends this time around, so was rather thrilled to have a nice proper party. Of course CB had by this time dumped me, but MW was still around, though I don't remember if he came to the third edition. Kutti had appeared by this point and was my flatmate in nearly all but name--I have a feeling he spent more time in my flat than I did! The Knight had also appeared, as had The Flake, and my favourite aunt, her husband and daughter were all turning up late that night. It was a wild and raucous night, with vast quantities of alcohol and tobacco being consumed, and much koothu dancing happening. There was also, if I remember correctly, a confession or as close as I dared of my feelings to the Flake.

Which brings us the fourth and most recent edition, which was quite the party. In 2013, I now have enough friends to know that if I throw a small party it means 15 people. The Marathoner has been wanting to throw a housewarming party for so long and that house lends itself so well to winter parties that we decided it would be a co-hosted party. Several people brought various kinds of food. I baked cake and cookies, both of which are now coming up here. And in full circle I am again happy and content, loved and at peace. Enough rambling, on to the cake!

Obviously I have not faithfully followed Joe each time, because I don't like nuts and have been at varying degrees of solvency and this able to buy more or less rum and dried fruit. I'll go with what I did this year. The cake is best baked at least a month before serving, I think even 2 would be lovely. Do not try and age it without foil or butter paper because it dries out. This recipe makes 4 loaf cakes, though I think you can make 2 taller ones. This cake is a 2-day process.

Day one:
1/4 kg normal raisins (the greeny ones?)
1/4 kg currants (big black ones)
1/4 kg dried figs
1/4 kg dried apricots (try and get the ones that have the stones removed because the ones we usually get re a godawful pain to chop)
You can also add nuts, but I don't like em so I don't.
Zest of 3 oranges
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup molasses
2 cups brandy (or rum)
1/2 cup orange juice

Combine all the dried fruits, zest and spices in a large bowl (I used a big plastic box I could close and leave on the counter). Toss/stir well to mix. Add molasses, brandy (or rum) and OJ and mix well. Cover the mixture and let it macerate at room temperature overnight or up to 48 hours (that's the longest I've ever left it!).

Day two:
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 lb butter, softened
3 cups dark brown sugar
8 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract/essence

Nearly 750ml of rum for soaking

Preheat your oven to 135C/275F. Grease your pans and/or line them with wax/parchment paper. I tried this paper thing for the first time this time and it had its moments but I found it so incredibly annoying to cut the paper and shape it to size and crease it that I was like fuck it and did the second round with butter and flour.

Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl. Separately, beat the butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Which to me means until I'm tired of checking if it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one or two at a time, beating well after each addition. Now it really is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture and beat until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter over the fruit and mix well. Divide the mixture among the pans and bake for 1.5 to 2 hours. They’re done when a toothpick or sharp knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. But check on the, because as you'll see my tops have burned a bit.

Allow to cool completely on a rack, dribble more brandy (or rum) on top (or brush with a pastry brush or spritz with a spray bottle) then wrap each individual loaf in wax paper. Every 2-3 days inspect the loaves. Check for dryness and moisten with booze as needed. How alcoholic you want it to be is upto you, but I tend to put about a bottle into the cakes by the time they're served. On the day you're serving, give em one last dousing just to keep the kick. 

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