On Saturday I had a go at making a Christmas cake, using a recipe out of The AGA Bible, which was written by Amy Willcock (who used to live round here but now lives on the mainland, I think). Taxi drivers gossip about her – a few years ago she was in a documentary called The Hissing of Summer Lawns and was about her attempt to modernise the WI in Yarmouth. I only met her once, at the yacht club, but the show was amusing enough if you find time to watch it.
Anyway, the AGA Bible is a good book – one of the things about having an AGA (if you didn’t grow up with one) is that you really need a guide to using it or you risk being rather frightened of it.
One of the helpful things about this book is that it includes different recipes for the celebration fruitcake (which I think means Christmas cake) for different sized cake tins (round and square). One problem I had was that, although I have cake tins, the manufacturers don’t put the sizes on them – we ended up measuring my square tin and decided that it was 20 cm across.
The day before you make the cake, you need to put all the fruit, candied peel and orange / lemon zest in a bowl with the treacle and brandy to marinate. I have no idea whether I chopped the glace cherries small enough and I didn’t have a zester – I used a microplane to do that job.
Then you cover the bowl with some clingfilm.
When it came to actually making the cake batter, I made a couple of changes. I didn’t have any rice flour and the nice ladies at the Co-op looked a bit baffled when I asked if they sold it. However, my Mum said that cornflour would do the same job so I used that instead.
I also didn’t put any chopped almonds in, partly because quite a few people I know don’t like cakes with nuts in and partly because our nephew is allergic to pretty much all nuts. Realistically, there is no change whatsoever that he will want to eat this cake but it does seem rather inhospitable to make something that he can’t safely eat. However, I’ve now realised that if I want to ice it, I’ll need to cover it with marzipan (which I hate but my husband loves) so that point doesn’t really stand.
Originally, when I creamed the sugar and butter, I hadn’t waited for the butter to reach room temperature so it was a bit of a claggy mess. I bunged the bowl on top of the AGA for twenty minutes and it softened up a bit.
Once I’d added all the fruit, the cake mix was actually enormous – came right to the top of my Kitchenaid bowl. I greased the square tin and put greaseproof paper on the bottom (but not on the sides – I figured that, as my tin had a moveable base, this wouldn’t be needed).
I put it in the roasting oven for twenty minutes (as that’s what the recipe said) and then into the simmering oven. The recipe said this could take between five and ten hours, depending on the AGA. In fact, mine was in the simmering oven (at the top) for five hours – my AGA is new so is probably a bit warmer than the old coke-fired ones.
I’ve been told that I need to feed the cake with brandy or sherry. By this, I prick it with a skewer and then drip a teaspoon of liquor into it, about once a week. Sounds an awful faff, I may not bother.