Sourdough Chestnut, Whisky and Date Christmas Cake
I've just baked this cake and the house smells glorious. I love a slice of Christmas cake. It has to be dense, rich and sweet, served with a pot of tea, and packed full of fragrant spices and fruit, but baking a moist fruitcake can be a tricky thing. One of the most important aspects of baking a really good fruitcake is to choosing a recipe that holds a huge amount of dried fruit so there is no compromise to the structure of the cake as it is soaked in whisky, brandy or rum in the run up to Christmas.
My grandmother was a baker and famous for her fruit cakes. I’m not sure as a child that I appreciated how lovely her cakes were. I remember them being deep, rich and full of spiced sultanas and raisins but I used to pick out the cherries, eat the marzipan and was really most thrilled if my mother would hand me her icing. Luckily my grandmother wrote the recipe down and posted it to my mother just a few days before she died. There are very precise instructions in her letter explaining that the success of her cakes were due to the fact that they were to be made at least a month before Christmas, giving her cakes time to be fed and to mature.
My advice follows suit. This cake is densely packed with fruit and to be delicious it needs to be skewered, have the whisky added to it and given a couple of weeks to mature. The combination of dates, walnuts and chestnut flour with brown sugar, clove oil and mixed spices gives this cake a wonderful deep rich base to add the whisky to and the addition of the sourdough starter (although not essential) adds a base note slightly tempering the sweetness.
I can't take the credit for decorating this cake, it was decorated by Michael from Hockley's Cakes, who made a beautiful job of the icing, but I can tell you that BakeryBits has made life easy for anyone who wants to bake this cake with the Christmas Cake kit so don't delay get baking this weekend (it's stir up Sunday) ... and the treacle, dates and whisky will have time to mature together beautifully in time for Christmas day.
Makes 1 20cm Christmas cake.
- 175g Stoates organic white self-raising flour
- 70g Mulino Marino organic chestnut flour
- 1 tsp organic baking powder
- 1/4 tsp clove oil
- 1/2 tsp Cornish sea salt
- 1/2 tsp organic cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 175g butter
- zest of 1 lemon
- 200g soft brown sugar
- 1 large tbsp treacle
- 1 tsp Ndali vanilla essence
- 4 large free range eggs
- 75g unrefreshed sourdough starter (optional)
- 300g sultanas
- 350g chopped dates
- 70g chopped walnuts
- 100ml whisky
- Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2.
- Sieve all the flour, salt, baking powder and dry spices into a bowl.
- Cream the butter, lemon zest, clove oil, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the treacle, and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.
- Beat the eggs and sourdough together then add a little at a time to the butter mixture. To stop the batter from splitting simply add a tablespoon of the flour. Fold in the remaining flour. Mix well, then fold in the dried fruit, and chopped walnuts.
- Grease a 20cm round springform cake tin and line both the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
- Pour the mixture into the tin and make a sure your cake mix is as flat as possible.
- Bake for 1 hour, then turn the oven down to 140°C/gas mark 1 for about 31/2–4 hours. To test push a skewer into the centre to test for doneness. If it comes out clean, then the cake is ready – if not return the cake to the oven for up to another hour. Test every 20 minutes or so until the skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes.
- Turn out onto a wire rack. Before the cake is completely cool poke a few holes in it with a skewer and pour over 4 tbsp of whisky. Let the alcohol soak right into the cake. Once cooled keep the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, with the holes side up. Spoon over 3-4 tablespoons every week until the whisky is used up and the cake is ready to decorate. (If you feel that the cake will take more then feel free to add another 30ml of whisky).
- Decorate with marzipan and icing.