Happy Christmas everyone. To all my family and friends back in Malaysia, it is this time of the year that I wish most to be in the warm and hot environment enjoying the holiday festivities with you lots! And I wish you all a great time gathering and feasting and many happy moments that this X'mas will bring. And to all friends and also family members around the world, peace and good times goes out to all of you and wishing you a beautiful X'mas season. And to all the people who follows and read this blog, I hope you all have a great holiday celebration too while cooking and entertaining.
Two years ago, I made the X'mas Minced Pies, which is very much a tradition of the English X'mas and what I lived with during my years in England. This year, I graduated to the level of making the English fruit cake for this X'mas to give out to friends in their cookie boxes. And also a few slices reserved for myself and the kids. The most usual comments from fruit cakes is that they are too sweet, especially those store bought ones but I do understand the need to preserve them for a longer shelf life till the X'mas season, hence the loads of sugar in them! For this, I tasted the dried fruits out of the container before deciding on the amount of sugar to be added into the recipe. The next is the heaviness of the brandy content, that also required to preserve the moist and shelf life of the cake. I grew up not wanting to eat fruit cakes despite my beloved dad loved it so much during his lifetime and had it every year even when we should be celebrating X'mas the Malaysian way over potlucks of local food rather than having slices of sugary cake. But now, my tastebuds have changed and I actually yearn to eat it over a cup of tea after my X'mas dinner or whenever I fancy. Sign of getting old I guess!
I used this Recipe from BBC Good Food and I recommend it to everyone! The cake turned out perfectly moist and rightly sweet. The only thing that I amended was the baking time as I made half of the batter into 6 cupcakes while the rest in a loaf pan. I find it strange that the cupcake ones were baked faster at 45 mins but the loaf one took and extra 45 mins to complete cooking. I didn't even bother to line the loaf pan with parchment paper as I am always clueless when comes to measuring and cutting those liners. But I greased the pan with butter! Remembering my Thanksgiving turkey and the presence of butter around it during the roasting which made it succulent and tender, I adapted the same technique! By greasing the pan, the outside of the cake baked nicely and didn't dry out. Whatever pan you decide, just check the cake at least 15 mins prior to the ending of the given time of baking. When the skewer inserted and comes out clean, it is done and should be removed from the oven immediately to cool. And once down to room temperature, the cake must be wrapped in aluminum foil to keep the moisture in. I particularly like this recipe as it was fast to make and can actually be made 1 week before serving and the nearer to X'mas it is made, the less dousing of brandy is required to keep it moist.
For the decoration I used almond paste, rolled fondant and sugar deco of the Holly berries! I was so happy to have seen and found these lovely deco and grabbed them instantly a month ago from the craft store. That is why I love this season so much, every single thing in the craft stores simply yells at you to get into the mood and be creative for the holidays. The almond paste preserved the freshness of the cake and adds additional lovely aroma to the cake and without it, I don't think the cake will taste complete. I don't particularly like rolled fondant but for this cake, it was the only best choice to obtain a smooth surface and I tried my best to roll it out thinly and attached it to the almond paste layer with a thin layer of apricot jam. The cutting must be at least about 1 inch as the cake is very moist. I figured that not everyone can eat a whole loaf of fruit cake when there are so many cookies around, so I cut them into slices and packed them into little plastic bags and popped 2 or 3 packets into each cookies box.