Food - - Know how -

Mak­ing a Christ­mas cake is of­ten a yearly rit­ual for many Kiwi fam­i­lies. For some it will mean us­ing a recipe that has been handed down through gen­er­a­tions, for oth­ers it will en­tail ex­per­i­ment­ing with a new ver­sion each year. Although there are nu­mer­ous recipes for a tra­di­tional fruit cake, most of them fol­low a sim­i­lar method. Here we show you the gen­eral rule of thumb for Christ­mas cake suc­cess and share a few ex­pert tips and tricks to en­sure you get the per­fect re­sult ev­ery time. And if you’re look­ing for new in­spi­ra­tion this sea­son, we’ve got a de­li­cious hazel­nut ver­sion on page 106 for you to try. Happy bak­ing.

1 Cut strips of bak­ing or brown pa­per to line the side of the pan, over­lap­ping ends slightly. Make a 2cm fold, then snip the pa­per up to the fold and fit around the pan.

2 Lightly grease the pan to hold the pa­per in place. Po­si­tion the pa­per around the side of the pan, with the snipped fold at the bot­tom. Two or more lay­ers of pa­per are of­ten used.

3 Trace the base of the pan onto the pa­per; cut out the pa­per slightly in­side the marked cir­cle. Po­si­tion in the pan to cover the snipped pa­per and line the base.

4 Beat the butter and sugar only un­til com­bined. Don’t over­beat, as this makes it too soft to sup­port the fruit, and makes it dif­fi­cult for the mix­ture to ab­sorb the eggs with­out cur­dling.

5 Af­ter in­cor­po­rat­ing the eggs, stir the butter mix­ture into the fruit mix­ture. Stir in the sifted flours and any other dry in­gre­di­ents as in­di­cated by what­ever recipe you are us­ing.

6 Drop spoon­fuls of mix­ture around the edge of the cake pan (or in the cor­ners if us­ing a square pan) to hold the bak­ing pa­per in po­si­tion, then add the rest of the mix­ture.

7 Fruit cakes of­ten end up with air pock­ets be­cause the mix­ture is heavy and doesn’t flow. So push the mix­ture into the pan to elim­i­nate any air pock­ets, then level the top with a spat­ula.

8 Hold the pan with both hands and bang it down hard on the bench (or drop it from about 20cm). Do this a cou­ple of times to set­tle the mix­ture, and get rid of large air bub­bles. Bake.

9 Push the blade of a sharp-pointed knife straight through the cen­tre of the cake to the base. With­draw the knife slowly; if you feel un­cooked mix­ture on the knife, re­turn the cake to the oven.

10 Most recipes sug­gest brush­ing the cake with al­co­hol; this soft­ens the cake’s crust and im­parts a lit­tle more flavour to the cake. Brush it as soon as it comes out of the oven.

11 Make snips around the lin­ing pa­per level with the cake top and fold the pa­per over. Cover the cake tightly with foil, then wrap in a towel and cool overnight, be­fore re­mov­ing from pan.

12 Trim the top so it sits flat, then turn it up­side down onto cake board. Roll al­mond paste thick enough to fill the gap around the cake’s base; smooth pieces of al­mond paste into holes.

13 Brush cake all over with ex­tra liqueur. This will en­sure the cake has max­i­mum flavour. Roll al­mond paste large enough to cover the side of the cake. Join strips with a lit­tle wa­ter.

14 Roll and cut al­mond paste large enough to cover top; join edges with a lit­tle wa­ter, press to­gether gen­tly. Once cov­ered, stand for at least one day at room tem­per­a­ture to dry.

15 Al­mond paste gives a firm sur­face for the ready-made ic­ing. Roll ic­ing on a lightly ic­ing-sug­ared sur­face un­til large enough to flow over the cake. Lift onto cake us­ing the rolling pin.

16 Quickly smooth the top and side of the cake with lightly ic­ing­sug­ared hands, eas­ing the ic­ing around the shape of the cake. Trim ex­cess ic­ing from the base of the cake.

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