Christmas is just one week away, and so this week we present to you the epitome of Christmas sweets: the Christmas Cake. Malta's Christmas Cake is pretty much the same as the English Christmas Cake, having been introduced to the island during the 200 years of British Rule. Yet this dessert has formed a special place in the Maltese repertoire, and can still be found almost everywhere during these festive times.
- 450g currants
- 175g sultanas
- 175g raisins
- 50g chopped glacé cherries
- 50g mixed chopped candid peel
- 100ml brandy
- All of the above premixed and pre-soaked
- 225g plain flour
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
- 225g soft dark brown sugar
- 50g chopped almonds
- 1 dessertspoon black treacle
You will also need
- 225g very soft butter
- 5 medium eggs
- Grated zest of lemon
- Grated zest of orange
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 100g whole blanched almonds (only if you don't intend to ice the cake)
- 1 heaped tbsp apricot jam
- 1 tbsp Armagnac or brandy
- 250g marzipan
- 500g ready to roll icing
- A little icing sugar
- Silver balls to decorate
- A cake board
- A set of 3 star cookie cutters
- Red ribbon
- You will need a 20 cm round cake tin, greased and lined with a double thickness of baking parchment, or bake o glide and a spot of oil. Tie a band of brown paper or (a double thickness of news paper will do) round the outside of the tin with string for extra protection. Preheat oven to 140*C/Gas Mark 1
- Now all you do is sift the flour, salt and spices into a very large mixing bowl, then add the sugar and butter and either whisk or beat with a wooden spoon until everything is light, pale and fluffy.
- Now gradually fold in the pre-soaked fruit mixture, chopped nuts and treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zest.
- Next using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon and, if you don't intend to decorate the cake with marzipan and icing, lightly drop the blanched almonds in circles over the surface.
- Finally cover the top of the cake with double layer of baking parchment with a 50c - size hole in the centre (this gives extra protection during the ling slow cooking).
- Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched.
- Sometimes it can take 30 to 40 mins longer than this, but in any case don't check for 4 hours.
- Cool the cake for 30 mins in the tin, then remove it to the wire rack to finish cooling.
- When it's cold, feed it by making small holes in the top and bottom with a cocktail stick and spooning in a couple of tablespoons of armagnac or brandy then wrap it in double baking parchment secured with an elastic band and either wrap again in foil or store in an airtight tin.
- You can now feed it at odd intervals until you need to eat it.
- Place the cake on the cake board, then melt the jam with the armagnac or brandy in a small saucepan, stirring until all the lumps have dissolved.
- Now using a brush, coat the surface of the cake quiet generously with the melted mixture.
- Take the marzipan and roll it out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and cut it to 20cm round and place this over the top of the cake.
- Repeat this step with the icing, and place it over the marzipan.
- Using the cutters, cut out one star of each size from the remaining rolled put icing, dampen one side of the largest star with cold water and then place this side in the centre of the cake. Then repeat with the medium and small stars.
- Decorate the edges of the cake and the stars with silver balls using a little water mixed with a little icing sugar as a glue to keep the silver balls in place.
- Keep the cake in a tin and tie a ribbon around it on Christmas day.