I once heard that the mark of a good recipe is the mess that it gets in. In that case, I think I have the best recipe in the world!
Crikey, if you ever thought that making a Christmas cake is easy, you have another thing coming. On the plus side, I have got one that's available for current eating and one test one that's living with the other gift ones for quality monitoring over the next few months. Honest!
The recipe "in print since 1978" was lies. It said "bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for 4 1/2 to 4 3/4 hours on gas mark 1" well they weren't cakes, they were Christmas puddings. So I put them back in for another hour on gm1, no good. Another hour on gm4, still a bit gooey. 45 minutes on gm 6 and that pretty much did the trick. So, the next batch, I decided to only do two at a time, but I cooked them for 2 hours on gm3.5 then two hours on gm 1, then I turned the oven off and allowed them to continue cooking while the oven cooled. They came out pretty damned perfect, I must say.
I bought a big clear plastic air tight stacker box to keep them in last week. The smell when you lift the lid is just to die for, but I can barely lift the box already and there are only 5 cakes in there. There'll be 13 by the time I've finished. I have another two in the oven as we speak, another 4 are prepped ready to cook on Monday. I'm working tomorrow so I'm not going to get chance to cook them. I'm still struggling to think how I'm going to present the cakes in the hampers though. I guess I'll see how much cake boards are, I could go for one of those and some cling film. I supose if I could get my hands on some really strong cardboard, I could make round cake boards myself cunningly using foil.
As usual, I've learned several valuable lessons making these cakes:
- Never underestimate the work, love, attention and blinkin' expensive ingredients in a Christmas cake.
- Always have a practice run with a new recipe (schoolgirl error - sorry Mrs Phillips :) )
- Go with your gut instinct to save money and ingredients (I dispensed with the very expensive candied peel and after 6 cakes decided to also dispense with the fresh orange and lemon zest because they it was an awful lot of extra work for very little result, AND, not everyone likes peel).
- It makes you feel very smug in September when you're virtually ready for Christmas!
I don't know if I mentioned that I have completed the kids Christmas sacks. They turned out really well and have given me some ideas for what the children will be getting next year. It's never too early to start planning! However, I have managed to overlook another two birthdays coming up so I'd better get cracking on that. Not really got any ideas yet either. Hmmm.
And the other thing I have to do this week, other than make some edible gingerbread Christmas tree decorations, is make my Christmas cards. Luckily, Meg and I had a brainwave involving blank cards bought cheaply and one sheet of expensive gift wrap. A couple of hours that'll take, and that'll be another job ticked off the list.