Here’s one to file away for next year, as the preparation work for the Bourke Street Bakery Christmas Cake begins 10 weeks before Christmas. First, the boozy spiced fruit mix is left to soak in a bath of brandy for five whole weeks. Then it is baked into a rich cake and fed more brandy every few days for weeks until it cannot take anymore festive spirits.
I’m usually not a fan of Christmas Cake, or Fruit Cake. For me, they bring back memories of stale, heavy paperweight chunks of cake, with the occasional bite of tart orange peel for good measure. Bleugh, I hate orange peel. The great thing about making one yourself, is of course taking liberties with the ingredients i.e. omitting gross fruit peel and adding more good stuff like dried figs. And secondly, knowing that when you serve the Christmas Cake to guests, the cake crumb will still be delicate and fresh.
This recipe makes two small 13cm Christmas Cakes, with each cake serving 6-8 wedges. After a Christmas lunch or dinner, the last thing anyone feels like is more rich food, so thankfully the servings are small and satisfying. Once ready for serving, it can be paired with an airy light whipped brandy butter. Because it’s just not decadent enough as it is, ha. Personally, I would pair this with a chilled brandy custard or cream to help cut through the richness of the cake. Can be served cold or warm.
BOURKE STREET BAKERY
Makes two 13cm Mini Christmas Cakes. Will serve 12-16 people all together.
Christmas Fruit Boozy Soak: start 5 weeks in advance
55g Caster Sugar
80g Pitted prunes, chopped
80g Pitted dates, chopped
135g Dried Figs, chopped
55g Mixed Peel (or if you think peel is gross like moi, add 55g of fruit listed above)
Add the sugar and water in a saucepan and stir over high heat until the mixture boils. Let the mixture cool.
Meanwhile, in a large airtight container, add the sultanas, chopped prunes, currants, dates, raisins and figs. Pour over the brandy and cooled sugar syrup and stir well until the fruit is coated. Replace the lid and let the fruit marinate at room temperature for 5 weeks. Stir the fruit daily for the first week, and then once a week thereafter. (They note that the fruit mix will keep for up to 2 months in the fridge).
100g Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon Mixed Spice
110g Unsalted Butter, softened
100g Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons Honey
2 tablespoons Golden Syrup, or treacle
1 teaspoon Marmalade
3 large Eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
900g Fruit Soak
150ml Brandy (for “feeding” the cake once baked)
Grease two 13cm round cake tins and line the base and sides with baking paper. Do a couple of layers on the side, as fruit cakes are prone to burning. Preheat the oven to 190c.
Cream the butter, sugar, honey, marmalade and golden syrup (or treacle) with an electric mixer until pale. Slowly pour in the eggs, allowing them to incorporate well each time. If the mix starts to curdle or separate, add a little flour to keep it together. Once all the eggs have been added, pour in the flour, spice and almond meal, and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the fruit soak.
Pour half of the batter in each cake tin and firmly tap them on the bench. Place both on a baking tray and immediately lower the oven to 160c, baking for 40 minutes. Turn the tray 180 degrees and bake for a further 20 minutes. The cakes are done when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. The authors note that it might take up to 1hr and 20mins. If the top starts to brown during this time, cover the tops with aluminium foil. Once done, allow to cool completely in the tins.
Use a skewer to make 20-30 deep holes in the top of each cake. Lay down a sheet of aluminium foil, then a sheet of baking paper on top, big enough to wrap each cake individually. Place one cake in the centre of the baking paper and brush the top with around 1 teaspoon of brandy. Wrap the cake in the baking paper and foil casing and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Make sure each cake is fully wrapped in foil, as the alcohol will evaporate if there are holes. Every 3-4 days, unwrap each cake and brush another teaspoon of brandy on the top. Keep this up until the cakes cannot absorb anymore alcohol (or around 8-10 weeks).
200g Unsalted Butter, softened
125g Icing sugar mixture
Cream the butter and icing sugar until fluffy and pale in colour. Gradually pour in the brandy a little at a time, mixing well until all added together. Scoop the butter into a microwavable container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve the butter at room temperature. Will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks.