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08 December 2005
Christmas cake
I made the first Christmas cake tonight. You can buy them here, but they are shitty American things and damned expensive to boot. The recipe that I am going to give comes from my great-grandmother, and has been adapted to Mexican circumstances. The original called for 1 lb of currants, 6oz of raisins and 6oz of sultanas. You cannot get currants here to save your life, so my version uses more of the other things.

You will need:
1 lb sultanas
1/2 lb raisins
1/2 lb glace cherries
3 or 4 tablespoons brandy
8 oz plain flower
8 oz soft brown sugar
8 oz unsalted butter
Four eggs
Grated peel from two oranges
Ditto, one lemon.
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
Ditto, salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 desertspoon of black treacle, or mollases in Mexico

Right, off we go:
The day before put the fruit in a bowl and add the brandy. Cover it with a lid and go to bed.

The next day:
1. Mix the sugar and the butter. Do not skimp on this as it is the most important. You want the mixture to be off-white in colour and very, very fluffy when you have finished. If you are doing it by hand then it will take about 20 minutes at least. I use a heavy duty food blender and leave it on high power for at least 30 minutes.
2. Take the egg yolks and add them one by one to the mixture.
3. Beat the egg whites until they are seriously fluffy and then add them as well.
4. Sieve the flour, spice and salt into a large bowl.
5. Now add the flour to the mixture.
6. Add the mixed fruit from last night.

Your oven needs to be at gas mark one, which is 275F or 140C Your cake tin should be about 8" round or 7" square. Make sure you grease the bugger. Take two sheets of greaseproof paper, each about 18" long. Place them inside your greased cake tin to form a cross, one going left to right, and the other on top of it, going top to bottom - got that?. Then add the mixture. Finally, fold the paper over so that it covers the top of the mixture. Then make a hole about the size of a 10p coin in the middle.

Slap the tin in the oven, near the bottom. I go two stops down from the middle.

Bake for about 4 1/2 to 5 hours, and do not open the fucking oven until you think your cake is well sorted. If you think it is, then take it out and remove the paper. Stick a knife in it and if the blade comes out without anything sticking to it, your cake is cooked.

Leave it in an air-tight tin until Christmas, but drop a teaspoonful of brandy on it every week or so. It's called feeding the cake and it makes it taste much better.

As for icing, that you can forget. I buy ready made because getting hold of the English icing sugar is impossible. The Mexican version is OK, I suppose.

By the by, if you think that this is very complicated and difficult, then don't. My father did the mixing of the raw ingredients and my mother then mixed them altogether. I just got in everyone's way. Me, the wife and kids follow the same pattern. Do things as your parents did and make sure your kids grow up to follow suit - you know it makes sense.

Also by the by: do not finish off the bottle of brandy that you used for the cake. Failure to take this advice could lead to serious headaches the next day.

Coming next: the turkey!

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