Baker Nancy Birtwhistle won the hit show in 2014 and claimed full marks in the final technical challenge with her “tarte au citron”.
But one of her more classical bakes is the humble Christmas cake packed with soaked fruit, spices, and booze.
Sharing a video on her Instagram account, the baker-turned-author said: “Once we get into October I start to think about my Christmas cake. And my Christmas cake is one of the few cakes where I paper line the tin because I leave those papers on right up until Christmas.
“I know this recipe is really popular so I decided to price it up. And the ingredients come to £8.60 for a cake that will weigh two and a half kilograms – about eight or nine inches in diameter and quite deep.”
Nancy explained that she compared the cost to that of a ready-made cake at the supermarket weighing 907g, which is less than half the size of hers -and it cost £10.
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Not only is the star baker’s recipe much cheaper to make, but it also caters to multiple, larger cakes, which are completely tailored to one’s personal taste.
To make it at home, follow Nancy’s easy recipe below:
- 1k mixed dried fruit and peel
- 100g glace cherries
- Four tablespoons brandy, Cointreau, sherry, or cold black tea
- Zest and juice of one lemon and one orange
- 250g salted butter
- 250g dark brown sugar
- One tablespoon of black treacle or golden syrup
- Five eggs, beaten
- 1.5 teaspoons of ground nutmeg
- One teaspoon mixed spice
- 1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- One teaspoon of ground ginger
- One round cake tin (9×3 inches)
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Lining the cake tin is crucial for Nancy’s Christmas cake as it’ll keep the sponge from sticking for months until it is ready to be eaten. To do this, place the tin on a large sheet of greaseproof paper and draw around the circular base.
Cut it out and use a new sheet to cut two strips wide enough to cover the depth of the tin. Make a small fold of half a cm along the length of one to form a crease, then unfold and snip from the edge to the fold at half-inch intervals. Repeat with the other strip.
Spray some oil inside the cake tin and line the edges with the strips of paper, positioning the snipped sides on the base of the tin to secure them in place. Press them down onto the oiled base and top with the circular sheet of paper.
Start the sponge mixture by adding the dried fruits, citrus zest and juice to a large mixing bowl, then pour in the alcohol or black tea if making it non-alcoholic. Stir well to combine before covering the bowl with a plate and leaving it to soak overnight.
The next day, cream together the butter and sugar with a whisk until smooth then add the beaten eggs a little at a time while continuing to stir the mixture. Spoon in a little flour to form a “smooth, non-curdling batter”.
After this, fold in the rest of the sieved flour and spices before pouring the soaked fruits into the bowl. Stir well to form a thick mixture that’s ready to be baked.
Transfer it into the lined tin to fill it up to the brim and smooth it out at the surface with the back of the spoon. Bake at 100C (fan oven) for 10 hours.
Nancy said: “The oven does need to go on low and slow but don’t forget you don’t need to cook just one cake. You can fill your oven with cakes – they make great presents.”
When the cake has been removed from the oven, leave it to cool before wrapping it up tightly in foil and placing in an airtight container where the “flavours mature between now and Christmas”.
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