Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Anna's Christmas Cake

There are two secrets to this recipe, which I avoid calling "fruitcake" because of the negative connotations. First is to use home-candied orange peel. It really is not worth buying the waxy, gummy, noxious substance that is marketed as "candied peel" by supermarkets; small wonder fruitcake has a bad reputation! For years I fussed with various methods of candying peel until I discovered Julia Child's recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which produces a truly delicious result. 

The second is to give the cake enough time to mature if you are planning to baste it with liquor. For consuming at Christmas, I try to start the cakes in September; when I have managed to do so, the results have been spectacular. My basting liquor of choice is a combination of Grand Marnier and Amaretto. If you don't wish to use the liquor, the cake will still be good, but its keeping time will need to be counted in days rather than months.

If you wish, you can cover the finished cake with marzipan and/or white icing, as is often done in the UK. The cake itself is based on my Swiss German great-grandmother Anna Klein Mueri's recipe, which did not contain fruit, nuts, or liquor.

On the evening before baking the cake, combine in a nonreactive large bowl:

2 c. golden raisins
2 c. candied orange peel, preferably homemade, chopped 
2 T. Amaretto
2 T. Grand Marnier

Cover and set aside at room temperature. The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together:

1 c. softened butter
2 c. granulated sugar
2 t. each vanilla and almond extract
2 eggs

In a separate bowl, mix:

4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. pumpkin-pie spice

Mix in a measuring pitcher:

2 and 1/4 c. whole milk
2 and 1/2 t. baking soda

Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat 3 minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure.

Mix in:

The raisin-peel mixture with liquor
1 c. sliced almonds

Butter and flour a large Gugelhopf or angel-food cake pan very thoroughly. Pour in the batter and smooth level. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then unmold onto a rimmed, non-reactive platter to cool completely. Baste with:

1 T. each Amaretto and Grand Marnier

once a day until Christmas. You may poke holes in the cake to facilitate soaking. Some people wrap the cake in cheesecloth, then in foil. Store in a cool place. Cake's flavor most definitely improves with aging.



Copyright (c) 2016 Anna Bendiksen

 

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