Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Fig and Chocolate Christmas Cake (Super Easy)

This was the cake of two years ago.  You can see I have a haphazard approach to icing my Christmas cakes; you can, however, take the principle of adding starry Marzipan cutouts to the top of ready-to-roll fondant icing but actually take care to give the edges a neat look... if you want.

Cakes made with vegetable oil are not only better for you than using saturated fat, but they also have the advantage of ease in the making; no creaming stage, you just need to give the whole lot a mix.  If a slice of Christmas Cake does give you anxiety when it comes to health, please be reassured than there is less sugar in this one than in a standard Christmas Cake recipe.

Moving on from the health aspect, because we aren't really eating Christmas cake for nutritional benefits, the figs here needed sherry.  I usually always use rum for my Christmas Cake; I even used white rum to make a lighter cake with dried mango, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg the same year for variation which was also very yummy; but as this is a chocolatey Christmas here on the blog - see Christmas Plum Pudding with Chocolate and Pecans, - and because this cake went down the best with visitors like the most luxurious fig roll they had ever eaten, rich and chocolatey and dark, I figured I had best share this one.  

This recipe is actually nut-free.  This is because we have little ones around and one of our close relatives can't manage them.  50g chopped pecans would be really luxurious, or 50g ground almonds would add marzipanny richness, or 50g chopped walnuts would be lovely with the figs and sherry flavours.

I like to make these around the 16th, ready for Xmas Eve and henceforth; I sometimes leave it too late and, while delicious, it doesn't cut as well and has to be fed to the mouth finger-pinch by finger-pinch in crumbs.

I also like to make them in 2lb loaf tins in a huge batch - they are easier to ice neatly (as you can see, I need all the advantage I can get with that) and easily packaged up in cellophane and ribbon to offer as gifts.  A full-sized loaf of Christmas Cake, especially a variation on the theme such as this one here, and especially if it becomes a routine gift so you vary it every year, tends to be well-received by even those who are usually reluctantly thankful for homemade gifts.

How I made this cake:

200g dried figs, chopped and stalks discarded
200g sultanas
100ml sherry
The juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp black treacle
200g granulated sugar
100ml mild vegetable oil
250g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 generous tbsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
50g nuts if liked, see info given above
To decorate: ready-to-roll fondant icing, read-to-roll marzipan, and marmalade

1. Put the fruit in a pan with the sherry, orange juice, black treacle and sugar. Warm it gently then set aside for the fruit to soak overnight.
2. Mix the remaining ingredients in until well combined.
3. Turn into a 18cm round cake tin or 2lb loaf tin you have lined with greaseproof baking paper (I really don't stress about being too neat; it all goes down in one piece which I fold into the corners and leave sticking above the tin for ease of lifting it out later.  I think the little creases in the finished cake add character, but a loaf tin adds less of these anyway which is why I use it for the gift cakes.)
4. Bake at 165C for 2 hours.  Check half way and cover with foil if necessary.
5. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes and then lift out onto a wire rack using the lining paper to help you.

To decorate

Once cooled, remove the lining paper and brush the top with warmed marmalade (I don't care if it has little wee bits of shred in it, use shredless if you do.)  Top with rolled out marzipan.  Leave overnight to dry out a little.  Brush the top of the marzipan with warmed marmalade, then top this with rolled out icing.  Leave for a day.  Roll out marzipan and cut out stars, the put on the icing with a little brush of warmed marmalade to hold them in place.

Do you have any simple ideas for icing, that even I can attempt?!

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