There’s a mysterious somebody in our house who nobody knows. He’s a frequent visitor, especially at times of major family celebrations, but must be quite shy and reserved as despite much coaxing and cajoling has been most reluctant to reveal himself. I do know he has a penchant for chocolate, ice cream and turkish delight and is incredibly adept at unearthing all the little hiding places I like to squirrel away my cache of festive treats. Perhaps he’s one of Santa’s mischievous little elves. This year he raided my carefully guarded pack of chocolate covered fruit and nut, saved to adorn our traditional Christmas morning fruit cake. Of course I use the term he loosely, as he could quite easily be a she.
Tis the night before Christmas and I’m too tired to deal with our gluttonous intruder’s shenanigans. It’s hot and humid and I was up early to do a morning market run to pick up flowers, cherries and all the last minute festive bits and pieces. Our fridge is groaning but I have been extremely careful not to over pack it. Flashback to a most inconvenient Christmas Eve two years ago when it shuddered violently in protest and packed it. Any impending disaster was diverted only by our unenvironmentally friendly drinks fridge in the garage and a flotilla of ice laden eskies. Of course the blame was squarely levelled on my 6kg brining turkey and an enormous leg of baked ham.Uncharacteristically that year, with so many rich pickings, Mr Nobody stayed away.
This afternoon with almost every item ticked off my to do list, I turned to my very last and favourite task, decorating our Christmas fruit cake. Since our children were very young we have always breakfasted on chocolate fruit cake, cherries and a vanilla custard anglaise on Christmas morning. It’s a family tradition that goes hand in hand with present opening. The cake is always adorned with white chocolate and an assortment of dark chocolate covered fruit and nuts, lovingly sourced from a specialty chocolatier weeks in advance. Obviously the allure of fine chocolate proved far too irresistible to Mr Nobody. What followed was a frantic search through every cupboard and an unwelcome eleventh hour visit back to the shops and its teeming hoardes of desperate last minute shoppers.
If the recipe looks familiar, its one I posted two years earlier when this blog was in it’s infancy, albeit in mini form in the guise of end of year gifts. Here’s hoping that your Christmas Eve is relatively stress free and tomorrow brings much love, laughter and goodwill. This will be my last post for 2014 as I’ll be taking a break from this blog until the New Year. So to all my dear readers and followers, have a wonderful Christmas and may the year ahead be full of contentment and much joy.
Festive Fruit Cake With Chocolate and Kahlua
Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson
If making a gluten free version of this cake substitute the flour for an additional 1 1/2 cups of ground almonds. Without the flour the cake lacks a little structure but firms up beautifully when refrigerated.
Makes 1 large 25 cm round cake
1 1/2 cups (350 grams) dried soft prunes, chopped
1 cup (185 grams ) raisins
3/4 cup (125 grams) currants
1/2 cup (60 grams) dried cranberries
175 grams unsalted butter
1 cup (175 grams) dark brown sugar
3/4 cup (175 ml) honey
1/2 cup (125 ml) Kahlua coffee liqueur
2 oranges, zest finely grated and juiced
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 tablespoons good quality cocoa
3 free-range eggs, beaten
3/4 cup (75 grams) ground almonds
1 cup (150 grams) flour or substitute another 1 1/2 cups ground almonds for the flour if making a gluten free version.
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
100 grams white chocolate, melted
75 grams dark chocolate coated fruit and nuts
100g fresh cherries, a few to pile on top and the remainder to scatter around the plate
a fine sprinkling of edible glitter or tiny silver or white cachou balls
pretty ribbon to tie around the cake
assorted miniature Christmas decorations
PREHEAT oven to 150 C. Grease and line one 25 cm round spring-form baking tin, making sure a baking paper collar extends at least 5 cm above the tin. This helps protects the top of the cake from burning.
PLACE the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, coffee liqueur, orange zest and juice, mixed spice and cocoa into a large wide saucepan.
HEAT the mixture until it reaches a gentle boil, stirring the mixture as the butter melts. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes.
REMOVE the saucepan from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
AFTER 30 minutes, the mixture will have cooled a little. Add the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda, and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients have combined.
CAREFULLY pour the fruitcake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Transfer the cake tin to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The top of the cake should be firm but will have a shiny and sticky look. At this point, if you insert a skewer into the middle of the cake, it will still be a little uncooked in the middle.
PLACE the cake in its tin on a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled completely, remove from the tin and decorate.
TIE a pretty ribbon around the cake and place on a cake stand or serving platter.
MELT white chocolate and dollop into the centre of the cake.
SCATTER over chocolate coated fruit and nuts and a good handful of cherries. Dust with edible glitter or a sprinkling of tiny silver or white cachous.
ARRANGE miniature ornaments on very top.
SCATTER the remaining cherries around the base of the cake.