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My nephew sent me a cartoon last week depicting Santa aiming a rifle at an elf’s head with the caption “Every time someone mentions the C word in November an elf gets it“. Well so be it … because as far as I’m concerned once the clocks go back and Bonfire Night is over, preparations for Christmas can begin in earnest. I know there are people who insist on waiting until well into December to start planning but they are usually the people who end up with a mangy bag of sprouts and horror of horrors – shop bought bread sauce on the big day!!! And lets be honest Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles begin on November 1st – so if the King of Christmas starts thinking about it then so will I.

For me the preparations start with pulling all my Christmas cookbooks off the shelves and taking the time to pour over them greedily whilst enjoying a nice glass of something warming … and usually alcoholic. Of course I know that we will still have Delia’s sausage rolls, Nigel Slater’s ham and Nigella Lawson’s festive rocky road – but sometimes a newbie recipe sneaks it’s way into the Christmas repertoire, such as Jamie’s shredded sprouts with sage & garlic.

One thing I think you do have to do in November is make your Christmas Cake and Pudding. While I do wait until stir-up Sunday to do the pud I like to make the cake earlier – mainly so there’s plenty of time for me to feed it with lots of lovely booze. And of course as with everything else, the recipes for these have been in the family for yonks and get used year after year. I may make little tweaks but basically this has been the Lloyd family Christmas cake from way before my time. One reason for writing this blog post is so that the recipe can now never get lost … the paper copy is now dog eared and stuck together with sellotape and I’m always worried in case it goes missing.

Lloyd Family Christmas Cake: Ingredients

  • 275g currants
  • 175g sultanas
  • 75g raisins
  • 75 glace cherries, halved
  • 75g mixed peel (if you can buy big pieces and chop it up yourself)
  • 75g chopped nuts
  • grated lemon rind from 2 lemons (or 1 orange for a change)
  • alcohol of your choice
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 175g softened butter
  • 1 tablespoon black treacle
  • 4 eggs

Lloyd Family Christmas Cake: Method

  1. A couple of days before you want to bake your cake place all the dried fruit, cherries, mixed peel, nuts and lemon or orange rind in a large bowl. Pour over the alcohol, give it a good stir, cover with a festive tea-towel (yes, a festive one) and leave to steep. The recipe says 2 tablespoons of alcohol but I remember watching mam slosh a lot more than this in – so I do the same – probably about 100-150 mls. I usually use brandy but this year I found some golden rum that I’d infused with oranges and coffee beans last year so used that instead.
  2. On the day of baking pop on your novelty Christmas pinny, light a scented candle and pop Bing Crosby’s Christmas hits on the i-player.
  3. Now, grease and line an 8″ round deep cake tin (or 7″ square one). Do this twice so you have a double layer of grease-proof paper.
  4. Sift the flour and mixed spice into a bowl then add the ground almonds, sugar, butter and treacle. Add the eggs and then mix everything together. You can do this in a mixer but I prefer to do it by hand.
  5. Using a metal spoon add the mixed fruit to the cake mixture, give it a good stir and then dollop into your cake tin, making sure to smooth the top.
  6. Now tie a double thickness of brown paper around your cake tin and pop into the oven (140C) for about 2-3 hours. All the ovens I’ve ever had have cooked this cake in different times so just check that a skewer popped into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Allow the cake to cool in the tin then remove from the tin and wrap in a few layers of foil.
  8. Bring out every so often to breathe in that heady Christmassy smell and also to feed with alcohol – preferably the same type as you used to soak the fruit.
  9. Just before Christmas release your inner creative goddess and decorate as you wish … a future blog post will give you some ideas!