Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Cake (and Recipe) vs. Christmas Pudding - Anglophile Friday

My Christmas Cake
resting on the London street map, of course

So, when we were in Wausau the end of November, our son-in-law was making a Christmas pudding, a la George Orwell.  I'm hoping to get a morsel of that pudding at some point, so rather than making the same thing, I decided to make the other British Christmas delight, the Christmas Cake. The following few photos are of our son-in-law's Christmas pudding, followed by my Christmas Cake recipe and photos.

Sorry that I didn't get a chance to see our son-in-law's
Christmas pudding turned out and lit on fire!
If I do, I'll get a photo of it and put it on my blog.

Christmas Pudding, ready for steaming

After steaming, it will rest in a cool dark place
until ready to serve.


Okay, on to the Christmas Cake. Actually, they have mostly the same ingredients, except that a Christmas pudding is steamed for several hours and a Christmas cake is baked, then has an apricot layer, a marzipan layer, and finally a coating of royal icing.

Christmas Cake Recipe:

I used:
1 Kg. dried fruits
Figs, prunes, dates, dried apricots, cherries, dried blueberries, and
200g. mixed nuts, emphasis on Brazil nuts.
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150 ml.  brandy, sherry, whisky or rum (who likes rum!) I had Southern Comfort on hand and used that.
250 g. soft butter
200g light soft brown sugar
175 g. plain flour
100 g ground almonds
1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. mixed spice*
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. flaked almonds
4 large eggs
1 t. vanilla

*Mixed spice is a mixture of: 1 T. allspice, 1 T. cinnamon, 1 T. nutmeg, 2 t. mace, 1 t. ground cloves, 1 t. ground coriander, 1 t. ginger. This makes more than the recipe calls for, but then you can put what's left over into a container, label it, and keep it for another time.

Put dried fruit, zests and juice, alcohol, butter, and sugar in a large pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 min.

Heat the oven to 150C (300 degrees F.).

And the next step is where I part ways with the instructions. I had a ridiculous amount of trouble with parchment and the pan I had intended to use, so I scrapped that plan, sprayed the inside of my non-stick Bundt pan with non-stick spray, and tied a double layer of newspaper around the pan.

Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Pour batter into the Bundt pan and bake in the center of the oven for 2 hours. Then remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 T. of the alcohol into the little holes. I think I got a bit generous with that bit, then left the cake to cool completely in the tin. IN FACT, because I was so certain that my cake would come out in pieces, I let it stay in the pan for about 6 hours before turning it out onto a plate. I was so surprised when it came down in one huge CLUNK onto the plate. YEA!!

Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and then FEED it a bit more alcohol every fortnight (Did you know that fortnight actually is a contraction of 'fourteen nights?' fēowertȳne niht, Old English. Why didn't anyone tell me that before?)


Anyway, I didn't have that much time because I didn't get my cake stirred up on 'Stir Up Sunday,'  the last Sunday before Advent, when the Christmas pudding would be stirred up, each member of the family taking a turn stirring it, traditionally.  

Here's what I found on Wikipedia about Stir Up Sunday. I found it interesting and thought I'd pass it along to you:

"The term comes from the opening words of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and later (a translation of the Roman Missal's collect "Excita, quæsumus" used on the last Sunday before Advent):

 "Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

If the British are anything, they are great at forming and keeping traditions!

Also, the cake is sometimes stirred from east to west, in honor of the kings who came from the East to visit the Christ child. And traditionally, a silver sixpence was put into the pudding to bring good luck, assuming you're not the one who chokes on it. I suspect that with inflation the ranks of adherents to that particular tradition are thinning greatly.

And that reminds me of one of my favorite Hercule Poirot episodes, 'The Theft of the Royal Ruby.' The Christmas pudding plays into that story. You'll enjoy it. Yes, as usual, I digress.

Back to my Christmas Cake:

But I did feed it every few days and we'll see what happens.  Do not feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.

Now on to the

Apricot Layer:

The recipe I had called for boiling the apricot jam, then straining it, adding a bit of water, and painting it onto the cake. Why?? I have no idea why they go to all that work, so instead, I put a few tablespoons of apricot jam into the blender and blended it, then spread it onto the cake, all over, with a kitchen brush.  I think I then let that sit for several hours.

Marzipan layer:

Not knowing whether or not this stuff was going to be a beast to roll out, I wanted to make sure to have enough, so I made plenty. BTW, have you priced blanched almonds lately?? The price of the blanched almonds was double that of the almond meal, so I bought almond meal. It will taste the same and not be the top layer anyway. Whatever is left over can be shaped into little decorations, or better yet, drizzled with dark chocolate. Oh good grief!

So I used the following:


300 g. powdered sugar
300 g. almond meal
3 egg whites
1/2 t. salt
3/4 t. almond extract

Don't even try mixing this in your food processor. Mine nearly died trying to mix it in, so I moved it to my mixer instead and used the regular mixing attachment. It turns out like a huge blob of sawdust and glue. I am not exaggerating. I mean, REALLY stiff. And then I refrigerated it overnight, as I was supposed to do. When I took it out the next morning to roll it out, it was like a boulder. I set it in front of the fire to let it soften up a bit, then put some powdered sugar on the counter and rolled it out. It rolled out beautifully and did not break when I doubled it over and lifted it onto the cake. YEA!!! So far, so good.

After rolling out the marzipan layer and draping it, shaping it to the cake, I trimmed the excess and will use that for the decorations. I made an X across the middle, pushed the corners down into the center of the cake, then cut little V's of marzipan to fill in the spaces left. It all worked pretty slick. At this point, the cake was refrigerated over a night or two.

Royal Icing Layer:

3 egg whites
600 g. powdered sugar
1 T. lemon juice
All the above mixed on low, then when it had homogenized to the point that the dry sugar would no longer fly out of the bowl, I mixed this on high for a few minutes until the icing made soft peaks.

The icing was put on the cake, including that hole in the middle, and the leftover marzipan I cut into shapes to make the holly and berries after coloring it with Wilton's red and green food dye. After that, I stuck a ball of marzipan into the center hole of the cake to hold the candle securely. I could use a candle with a bit larger diameter, but didn't have one.

It was a fun project. I just hope I can find someone to eat it with me! If not, I'll eat my slice and wrap the rest of it up and put it away until next year. That'll teach 'em!

 In the meantime, my Christmas cake is resting
in a cool, dark place, covered with a tea towel (per British instructions)
This is my lovely tea towel's maiden voyage.

I plan to make marzipan again when our grandson is out for a visit. That stuff is like modeling clay, and with Wilton's dye, we can make many colors and have a blast.

The original cake recipe, which I tweaked (more than a bit) to my liking, was found on

 Christmas Cake 2015

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Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!



eileeninmd said...

Good morning, oh my your Christmas cake looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Happy Friday, enjoy your weekend!

Cheryl said...

Your cake is beautiful!! (Much prettier than a Christmas pudding, if I may say.) Enjoy! And I hope that others enjoy it with you! :)

Terri D said...

Well your cake is beautiful and I can't wait to hear how it tastes and who ate it with you! Keep us posted!! I hope we get to see the pudding flaming, too!

Brenda @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

Judy, I so enjoyed my visit today. Loved reading every line of your post ... around here we love Christmas pudding and Christmas Fruitcake. Your recipes look so delicious. I'd love to try those next year. And thanks for all the tidbits of information ... I think I finally figured out fortnight too, but it took years. And the info about the Stirring Sunday ... love the prayer that goes with it.

It's hard to believe we're almost there ... only a few more sleeps now.

Wishing you a beautiful weekend and a wonderful week ahead. Are you allowed peeks under your Oxford tea towel? What fun!


Susie said...

Judy, What glorious cooking. I will admit that I am not so into cooking much these days. But I sure enjoy seeing what others make. We have some amazing cooks in blogland. Blessings, xoxo,Susie

Angela said...

That looks amazing! What a lot of work. Will there be any left by the time we arrive? :)

MadSnapper said...

the christmas cake is beautiful and you know i love the candle in the middle, it makes a wonderful decoration and looks yummy. i have never had the pudding or the cake.

Lorrie said...

That's a gorgeous Christmas Cake. I don't like the stuff, but I do make small loaves for my husband and others to enjoy. Have never done the marzipan thing - you are a rock star!

Pamela Gordon said...

Your Christmas cake looks amazing, Judy! I've never made anything so beautiful and marzipan frosting? Never even tried it before. It looks too complicated. :) I remember lighting the Christmas pudding as a child. We were delighted to see it flame up from the brandy poured on it. I wish you and yours a very joyful and blessed Christmas. Pam

Judith @ Lavender Cottage said...

I've always liked store bought Christmas cake that had layer of marzipan on it but we just eat ours plain. After reading about your experience making marzipan, and maybe snickering a couple of times I'll continue with plain. LOL
My mother always had a pudding for dessert and I've only made it once - I steamed mine in the oven as suggested by a lady that sold hers. Since we can't seem to eat as much as we did in our youth, there is no room left for anything after a big turkey dinner except a cookie or two.
Merry Christmas Judy.

Julie's Lifestyle said...

Hello Judy,
Wow I love the Christmas cakes. The one with the white icing is so pretty and festive. Thanks for sharing the recipes.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas. Julie xo

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

What a gorgeous cake, Judy! I can tell it was a labor of love for you. I'm guessing you are not the only one in your family that will enjoy it! Great job! Merry Christmas! xo ♥

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Judy. Such a lot of work (and ingredients) goes into this pretty cake! Both desserts look wonderful. I just wandered by the bakery window today and saw all kinds of goodies I would love to taste! lol

Tired Teacher said...

Wow, that was quite an undertaking. I'd have to takeout a loan just to purchase all the ingredients. Please give us a follow up on how it tastes.

Deb said...

Goodness, that cake looks delicious.

Michelle said...

oh my..

I've never heard of a Christmas Cake.
Reminds me of what we call a fruit cake.
Which my Grandma used to make every Christmas.
However, your Christmas cake is so beautiful!!

Merry Christmas!! xoxo

Vee said...

I could hear a cash register in the background tallying the cost. Hope that it is so delicious that it is worth every penny. It surely is beautiful.

The Furry Gnome said...

That pudding looks deli ious! Never heard of 'Stir up' Sunday before.

Donna said...

That is a beautiful dessert! I pinned it so I wouldn't lose the recipe...thanks!

Betty Manousos said...

oh, that's a beautiful xmas cake! looks so delicious.

i love your blog!

wishing you and yours a very merry christmas!:))

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Love the angels in your header photo.
That cake looks amazing. Thank you for the recipe.

podso said...

It is just beautiful! And I think I saw it in the matching game in the Victorian Advent calendar today. I'll have to look again. Now I understand so much more. :-)

Tom said...

Looks yummy!

Theresa said...

Wow, that cake sure is a labor of love. It looks beautiful and sounds delicious. Now I'm in the mood for a steaming cup of English breakfast tea :) Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Yummy post! Beautiful, too. Merry Christmas!

Judy S. said...

Beautiful! I don't think I've the patience to attempt one. Hope you let us know how it tastes. It looks delicious!

EG CameraGirl said...

I'll have to save your Christmas cake recipe and make it next year, It sounds very good!

Debbie said...

Your Christmas cake is gorgeous, I would have a hard time cutting into that, it's a work of art!! It's nice when everyone gets in the kitchen and helps out, especially the boys!!

Alex said...

Making a Christmas cake can seem like a labour of Hercules! Yours looks absolutely amazing!! I read your post with great enjoyment and agree about all the pitfalls - wrestling with baking parchment, price of ingredients etc and BTW I never bother fiddling about with the apricot jam, either - just brush it on avoiding the apricots!

I wasn't going to bother making one this year, but changed my mind and tried the 'Hairy Bikers' Last Minute Christmas Cake recipe (they are a docile pair of cookery characters on UK TV!) ...the cake was OK but I had a disaster with the newspaper in the oven.

A Very Happy Christmas to you, Judy.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

A classic example of why the Internet can be a Good Thing - spreading the secret knowledge of Christmas cake and pudding! Both look fabulous. Surprisingly, I find many younger people don't enjoy either - maybe the taste is a little strong - but I love 'em both. The practice of putting coins in Christmas pudding is less common now, but I remember as a child finding the occasional silver sixpenny piece in old money (2.5p) - or even a very old silver threepenny piece - wrapped in greaseproof paper, inside the pudding. Pudding is often served with brandy sauce, though personally I prefer good old-fashioned custard. As for the Christmas cake, I will imagine you all tucking into a slice with a nice cup of tea while settling down to watch the final ever episode of Downton Abbey...:-) Happy Christmas, one and all - excellent post, Judy.

Donna said...

I have always wanted to try Christmas pudding but you just don't find that around here. And your cake has all the best must taste incredible...thanks for sharing. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas Judy!

Gayle said...

Your Cake is beautiful and thank you for the info on Stir Up Sunday.
Merry Christmas.

Heide at ApronHistory said...

That is quite the project! You will have to let us know how it came out and tasted. At least it is very beautiful! Merry Christmas!

Carla from The River said...

Now Judy, you can bring that cake over to Cameron. We would be happy to help you eat it. :-)
Merry Christmas! Enjoy!!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Oh my heavens Judy, ... My mouth is watering and I am I absolute awe of anyone who would undertake a project of this magnitude ! (Anyone especially whose ancestors hadn't been making this cake for seventeen generations;)))!

ann said...

Oh my, such an endeavor, but is such a Christmas tradition that family and friends look forward to and value every year. So worth the effort.

Julie's Lifestyle said...

Hello Judy,
Wow I just love your cakes and just perfect for Christmas and the holidays.
Thanks for joining and sharing this with us at Cooking and Crafting with J & J!
Merry Christmas.
Julie xo

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

This morning I made rugelach ( first time ) and it was hard to mix and the dough was sticky and it all turned out well in the end though. I thought I had a huge struggle UNTIL I READ THIS!! :) This was amazing and such a fun read ...I can't believe all that you go through for this cake! :) And it looks like a piece of art in the end.

Unknown said...

This is so pretty! Wow!

Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J! Merry Christmas!

Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow said...

What a beautiful cake and the preparation that went into it! Traditions are wonderful; they preserve the past and giving meaning to the present. I've only had Christmas pudding once. Merry Christmas to you and your family. xoxo Su

carrie@northwoods scrapbook said...

That Christmas cake looks positively amazing Judy!! Love sharing these moments with you and seeing your bits of Europe always a part of things. From photos, history, and foods. So much fun!!
Blessings to you and your family for a wonderful Christmas and very blessed New Year my Friend! xoxo

Parsimonious Décor Darling said...

This cake is as beautiful as it sounds. Gorgeous!

J_on_tour said...

Lovely looking cake.

I'm also told on sharing this post that it looks like a very interesting recipe. For extra info ... to avoid "feeding" a cake for several weeks you can add a mixture of glycerine and Brandy (equal amounts) and then freeze the cake. This achieves the same thing and is a good short cut with a limited amount of time.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's beautiful. It would be hard to cut into a cake that pretty.

Julie's Lifestyle said...

Thanks Judy for sharing and I featured your cake recipes at our Monday Cooking and Crafting with J & J!! We hope to see you again. Have a Happy New Year!!
Julie xo


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