Well there I was, 4 days before Christmas, and despite all my planning and making and baking, I found myself with no Christmas cake – but a quick check of my hand-written Christmas book resulted in the re-discovery of Nigella’s Chocolate Christmas Cake! According to my book, I first made this in 2012, and it’s be come a bit of a Christmas tradition now. I have to say that Nigella’s recipes don’t usually work for me, but this one does.
The great thing about this cake is that it’s so moist and rich that it feels like it’s been maturing forever. It’s also a really easy cake – one that you can make whilst you’re doing other things. To me, the biggest effort you have to make is the lining of the tin (I’ll talk you through that) – this cake gets a reasonably long, low cooking, so it needs to have its edges protected from the heat.
- Nigella’s recipe calls for 75g of ground almonds, but we’re a nut-free household, so I just leave them out and at the last minute I add 75g roughly chopped nut-free dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate . (I use Kinnerton’s, now called NoMo)
- Also, the Tia Maria had mysteriously disappeared 😉 , so I just used the same amount of Brandy, but you can use virtually any liqueur; just keep the quantity the same.
- I’m not a fan of candied peel, so I used 50g dried cranberries instead.
- The original recipe called for dark chocolate icing, but I fancied white chocolate so I just substituted one for the other – the quantities remain the same.
- a 20cm/9 inch round cake tin – I use a spring-form tin which makes it really easy to remove the cake for cooling.
- a large saucepan
- baking parchment
- brown paper and string
INGREDIENTS: There’s a big long list here, but it’s mostly thrown together so don’t panic, and tick each item off as you add it to the pot.
Into the saucepan put the following:
- 250g stoned prunes, roughly chopped – if you mistakenly buy stone-in Prunes (as I do every year!) just soak them in boiling water for about 10 minutes, and the stones will slip out really easily
- 250g raisins
- 125g currants
- 50g apricots, roughly chopped
- 50g dried cranberries
- 175g dark Muscovado sugar
- 175g unsalted butter
- 175ml clear honey
- 125ml Tia Maria/Brandy/whatever fruity Liqueur you have lying about
- the zest and juice of 2-3 oranges
- 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
- 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder – this weighed 60g today.
THEN, separately – don’t put them near the first list just yet..
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten in a jug.
- 150g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder.
- 75g dark chocolate, roughly chopped.
- Put all the ingredients in the first list into your saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted, and the Muscovado sugar has dissolved.
- Then let it all bubble gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the 10 minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool for 30 minutes – I stick a kitchen timer on to remind me..
- While it’s cooling, beat the eggs gently, and set aside.
- Chop the chocolate.
- Sift the flour, soda bicarb and baking powder together into a bowl and leave to one side, while you line the tin.
LINING THE TIN: Cutting the bottom of the sheet of baking parchment works for every cake tin you’ll ever have to line, so it’s well worth learning..
- Cut FOUR 18cm x 340cm pieces of baking parchment.
- Cut a frill on the long edge of each piece, by snipping 1cm cuts along the length of the piece, as above.
- Cut out two circles of baking parchment to fit the base of the tin using the base as a template (or use ready-cut as I do)
- Butter the tin and line it with two pieces of the long strips of paper, with the frilly ends fitting onto the base of the tin.
- Pop in one of the circles, then re-butter the paper and repeat the process.
- Get a double thickness of brown paper, or thin card if you’re stuck, and tie it around the outside of the tin. (I didn’t have any brown paper handy, so I dismantled a brown paper gift bag – necessity being the mother of invention, and all that…)
- Put the prepared tin onto a flat baking tray.
- Once the 30 minutes cooling are up, heat the oven to 130 fan/Gas 2.
- Gradually fold in the egg mixture using a wooden spoon.
- When the eggs are all well incorporated, sift in the flour in batches and fold in, using a folding and cutting technique, until it too is completely mixed in.
- Finally, fold in the chopped chocolate.
- Transfer the whole lot into your beautifully prepared tin, and pop it into the oven.
- In most ovens this will cook on a fairly low shelf in the oven, but check your own oven literature to make sure it’s on the right shelf for a rich fruit cake.
- Bake for 2 hours, then have a look – the top should be firm to the touch, but still rather sticky and shiny looking.
- When you test it with a skewer, it will come out fairly gooey. If you’re not entirely sure, give it another 5 minutes then take it out and put the tin onto a wire rack.
- It will take some time to cool, so remove the baking tray and leave the cake tin sitting on the wire tray. After 30 minutes or so, remove from the tin and allow to cool completely.
You can ice it as soon as it’s fully cold (I find that this takes overnight) – traditionally, with marzipan and royal icing, or with a fondant icing; or with Nigella’s suggestion of Chocolate icing (recipe below) bearing in mind that it will only last about 3 days if you use the chocolate icing. If you’re keeping it for later on, wrap it gently in a double layer of baking parchment and put it into a tin in a cool spot until you’re ready to ice it.
Into a medium sized saucepan put:
- 125ml double cream
- 1 tablespoon of Tia Maria
- and 125g of milk chocolate
Warm everything together gently and when the chocolate has melted and everything is blended together, then whisk it vigorously until it’s thick and glossy.
The first time I did this I was concerned as it seemed to take forever to thicken – the trick is that it really won’t thicken until it’s cooled considerably, so don’t panic, and take your time..
Pour over the cake and swirl it over the entire top. Then decorate as the mood takes you
Allow to cool and set, then store covered, in a cool place and use up within three days. It’s such a delicious cake that it rarely lasts more than 3 days anyway!