Thursday, 18 October 2012

October nights are drawing in, the days are much cooler with darkness falling quickly. The skies are inky black with the odd starry puncture mark and our thoughts are turning to Halloween in all its pagan tradition. Everything seems to be centred round the fireside or else the kitchen.
A postcard has marked the page ‘Black Christmas Cake’ in Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet cookbook for a while now. But it didn't seem the right time to try it until the season had properly changed and there was no going back. I had to do a bit of ingredient substitution as his recipe calls for orange extract and chopped ginger glacĂ©,  neither of which I had. But the cake turned out to be totally delicious regardless and perfect for restorative cups of tea beside the fire. In among the madness of normal life I made some "time for tea" bunting with decorated teapots and cups, perfect for these chilly days.

Black Christmas cake
550g dried mixed fruit
150g prunes, chopped
Grated zest of one orange
330ml Guinness/ stout
200g butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
200g muscovado sugar
150g black treacle
3 medium eggs
 250g spelt/self raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder

Prepare a 20cm round cake tin with non-stick baking paper and set your oven to 170C/ 150C fan/gas 3.
Put the dried fruit, prunes and orange zest into a large bowl. Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Let this simmer and reduce to about half. Add the butter to the saucepan and let this melt, then take off the heat. When the stout/butter liquid has cooled add the spices. Then beat in the sugar and treacle and pour all this over the fruit mix in the bowl. Then add the eggs and mix well. Finally sift in the flour- I used a mixture of spelt and self raising (about 100g spelt and 150g self raising) and the baking powder. Stir the flour in to really well combine. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 2 ½ hours until a skewer comes out clean.

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