Makes: Christmas Cake

A couple of weeks ago my Mum and I attempted our first ever homemade Christmas cake (I know, I know, we are rubbish). When I suggested trying to make one this year I was mostly excited about the decorating (and the eating), and a bit nervous about the actual cake making. It turned out to be much easier than we'd imagined though, and (trust me) if we can manage it, then anyone can! 

Here's how we did it (adapted from this recipe):



Ingredients:

500g mixed dried fruit 


  • 100g dried cranberries 
  • 150g dried apricots, chopped 
  • Zest of two oranges and juice of one large orange
  • 100ml brandy, plus 4tbsp extra 
  • 175g unsalted butter, diced 
  • 200g soft dark brown sugar 
  • large eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 100g ground almonds 
  • 200g plain flour
  •  ½tsp baking powder 
  • 1tsp mixed spice 
  • ½tsp grated nutmeg 
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1 CD of Christmas classics


    Method:

    Put on apron and pose for awkward photo in the mirror.

    Put Christmas CD on. Realise that first track is 'Stay Another Day' and skip track.

    Grate orange to get the zest, and accidentally grate finger in the process. Scream in pain when juicing the orange using said finger. Laugh bitterly at your own stupidity.


    Place the mixed dried fruit, dried cranberries, apricots, orange zest and juice and 100ml (3½oz) brandy in a large saucepan and very gently bring to the boil. Stir in the butter and, once it has melted, simmer gently for 10 minutes. Put nose over pan and inhale deeply.

    Remove from the heat and leave to cool while your Mum prepares the tin, with a level of precision and commitment that will astound you (seriously, she measured the sides with a ruler). Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/gas 2. line the base and sides of a greased 20cm (8in) round cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment so that it comes about 5cm (2in) above the tin. Take photo of aforementioned tin.

    Stir the brown sugar, eggs and ground almonds into the fruits, and then sift in the flour, baking powder and spices. Mix gently until the flour is no longer visible.

    Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth over the surface. Place in the oven for 45 minutes before reducing the temperature to 140°C/120°C fan/gas 1. 

    Lick bowl. Lick spoon. Remember that licking wooden spoons feels a bit gross.

    Continue to cook the cake for a further 1½ -2 hours until the surface is deep golden and firm to touch. insert a skewer - if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. if not, then continue to cook for a further 10 minutes at a time. To prevent the surface becoming too dark, cover loosely with foil.

    Notice that 'Fairytale of New York' is playing and turn CD up. Try to sing along. Discover you don't know 80% of the words. Compensate by dancing enthusiastically.


    Remove the cooked cake from the oven and pierce it with a skewer. Slowly pour over the 4tbsp of brandy until it has soaked in. leave the cake to cool in the tin and, once cold, take out, remove the parchment and wrap tightly in a layer of parchment and then in a layer of foil.

    Come back drunk from pub and admire your good work. Come dangerously close to dropping cake on the floor.

    Store in a cool, dark place until Christmas (or up to 3 months), and 'feed' it with brandy every two weeks.

    Easy!

    Slightly Sinister Pop Covers

    I'm currently loving slightly sinister indie band covers of pop classics. Yes, it's an obscure thing to be loving, but loving it I am. Here's my favourites:


    The Futureheads: Meet Me Halfway
    Actually, it's not that sinister, but it's a great version and I do bloody love The Futureheads.



    The Maccabees: I Drove All Night
    Love this; for me it completely changes the tone from dedicated boyfriend to obsessed stalker driving all night.



    iLiKETRAiNS: Last Christmas
    Seriously, no-one does sinister like these guys. And it's festive. 

    What do you think? I can't be the only person in the world who loves a sinister pop cover. Can I? OK, so I might be, but feel free to humour me and leave a comment.

    Weekend Wanderlust: The Bristol Channel

    OK, it's not exactly Cornwall. It's muddy, and rocky, and a little but smelly, but you know what? I don't care. I love my little bit of the Bristol channel. I love watching and listening to the waves, and breathing in the air. And I love that I can go to the beach and be the only person there (you wouldn't get that in Cornwall). There's something so relaxing about being by the sea in the town I grew up in. 

    This is a place that I will always truly love.

     


    Fun fact: the Bristol Channel has the second highest tidal range in the world. I bloody love a good fact.

    Weekend Wanderlust: Harrods Foodhall

    This post needs very little introduction, so I'm just going to let the food porn commence:








                                         
    Apologies if that's made you hungry... Looking through the photos has given me a massive chocolate craving!  I love living so close to London, and I do manage to go into town quite a bit. My phone battery died just after I'd taken these photos so I don't have any other pictures of my day. I'll take my camera with me next time, I promise! 

    In case you're wondering, I didn't buy any white alba truffles. Only £7000 a kilo though, what a bargain.

    Operation Christmas Child #OperationBlogger

    During last week's #lbloggers chat, Catherine suggested that bloggers might like to take part in Operation Christmas Child. I've done this before and I think it's such a lovely way to give to someone in need. Also, I love Christmas shopping, so I'll pretty much go with anything that gives me an excuse to buy more presents.

    You've probably heard of the project before; basically, you fill a shoe box with gifts for a child or teenager.

    Here's what to do:

    Visit the Operation Christmas Child website.
    Find an empty shoe box and wrap the lid and box seperately (so it can be opened and checked).
    Decide if you want your shoe box to go to a boy or a girl, and also which age range it;s suitable for (the choice is 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14). Print off the appropriate label.
    Fill up your box. There are quite strict guidelines on what can and can't be included, so be sure to check them here.
    Include a donation of £2.50 (you can do this online).
    Drop off your finished shoe box at your nearest drop off point by 18th November 2012.

    I'm doing my shoe box for a 10-14 year old boy. So far I've got:



    I need to get some fun things, then it's all ready! It really doesn't have to be expensive to buy things for your shoe box, I got all that from Wilkinsons for less than a tenner.

    There's only 16 days left to get your shoe box ready... Who's in?