Cracking Christmas cake and perfect puds
Tradition has it that Christmas cakes and puddings are made well in advance of the big day. MARY KEMP has the perfect recipes
AS I gather together my pudding basins, fruitcake tins and make lists for dried fruit and other Christmas ingredients, there may still be several weeks until Christmas, but it’s time for me to make my Christmas puddings and cakes. These two Christmas treats are so much better when made early and two things to tick off that ever-growing festive list.
The Sunday before Advent is often called Stir-up Sunday, the day Christmas puddings were traditionally made, and when every member of the family would have the opportunity to make a wish and a stir. The ritual of the wish and stir, I gather, was a bit of a ruse to get children to help with the laborious job of chopping and the heavy work of stirring the puddings with the promise of a secret wish when they finished.
This recipe is based on my great grandmother’s Christmas pudding recipe. This quantity will make three good size puddings or several small ones.
225g currants 225g sultanas 225g raisins 115g glace cherries, rinsed and quartered 115g chopped dates 115g shelled almonds, roughly chopped 85g grated carrot 175g plain flour 225g white bread crumbs ½ teaspoon cinnamon ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg ¼ teaspoon ground cloves ½ teaspoon baking powder The juice and zest of an orange The juice and zest of two lemons 225g demerara sugar Two cooking apples, peeled and finely chopped Six beaten eggs A good dessert spoon of black treacle A good glass of rum or brandy 225g melted butter and a little extra for greasing the bowls
1. In a large bowl mix all the dried fruit together with the almonds and grated carrot.
2. In another bowl mix the flour, breadcrumbs, spices and baking powder and then add them to the dried fruit mix, followed by the zest, sugar and apple and thoroughly combine.
3. Beat the eggs and pour into the mixture, with the juice, the black treacle, the rum and the melted butter and stir well. Make a wish and stir.
4. Grease the pudding basins and three quarters fill them with the pudding mixture, cover, either with a lid, or greaseproof paper and a cloth.
5. To steam, put the puddings in the top of a steamer filled with simmering water, cover with a lid and steam for a good six hours, topping up with water when necessary. Alternatively, on a trivet in a large saucepan with simmering water which comes half way up the side of the pudding. Cook until the pudding is a wonderful deep brown colour.
6. If I am making lots of puddings I cook them in my Aga simmering oven, stacked in a large roasting tin half filled with boiling water, and leave them overnight to gently cook.
7. Remove the pudding from the pan and cool completely, then store in a cool dry place.
8. On Christmas Day, gently steam or boil the pudding for about an hour to reheat.
GLUTEN FREE OR DAIRY FREE CHRISTMAS PUDDINGS:
You can use this recipe to make gluten free and dairy puddings, you just need to substitute the breadcrumbs, flour and baking powder with gluten free alternatives, and when you buy the dried fruit check the ingredients list, some companies use flour to stop the fruit sticking so make sure they list rice flour not wheat. For dairy free, use suet rather than butter.