My father is an artisan baker, with his own bakery where everything is made on the premises, and where so many different types of loaves are baked from 4am every day. Just like it has been in my family since my Great-Great-Grandfather had a bakery in Sussex.
So when Vanessa put a call out for foodie bloggers to test her recipes for her new book 'Prepped', which is described as Fabulous recipes for the Time Short Foodie, I was interested as it's aim appealed to me.
Then after several email chats we settled on my testing Vanessa's Grandmother's Christmas Cake - I was ecstatic, as this was something I could chat about with my Dad - he doesn't seem to tire of food or baking! And it is such an apt recipe for this time of year when many of us are preparing for the feasts of Christmas.
Just read Vanessa's blog about finding her Grandmother's recipes, and you know that these are special recipes.
250g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
200g caster sugar
Zest of a lemon
2 tbs black treacle
2 tsp Vanilla essence
½ lb raisins
12oz currents, mixed peel and glace cherries
100g chopped nuts
drop of milk to mix
1 Pre heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2.
2 Sieve the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and Spices into a bowl.
3 Cream the butter, lemon zest and sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the treacle, and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.
4 Mix the eggs in just a little at a time into the mixture, to stop the mixture from curdling, add a tablespoon of the flour to the mixture.
Fold in the remaining flour into the mixture. Mix well and then mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, glace cherries and the chopped nuts.
5 Grease a 20cm/8inch round or an 18cm/7inch square cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment (but not grease proof paper).
6 Turn the mixture into the tin and make a slight hollow in the centre – to keep the cake flat on top (you don’t want a domed cake to decorate!)
7 Bake in the oven for 1 hour and then turn the oven down to 110C/275F/Gas mark1 for about 3 ½ to 4 hours. Test with a skewer. If not ready bake for up to another hour testing every 20 minutes or so, until the skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes.
8 Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool. Once the cake is cool, poke a few holes in the cake with a skewer and pour over 3-4 tbsp of the Brandy. Let the brandy soak right into the cake.
Keep the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, with the holes top side up and add another few tablespoons of brandy once a week for a couple more weeks.
Decorate with marzipan and icing a week before Christmas.
I love that , although the recipe wasn't too intimidating, none of the richness you hope for in a great Christmas Cake has been missed. Vanessa's definitely onto a winner with Fabulous recipes for the Time Short Foodie because we are all winners with great food like this.