Baking this year's first batch of gluten free Christmas cake, a truly epic feat I've been doing most years for more than a decade (originally with gluten, though for many years without). Not a recipe for a lightweight, mixing the batter is like mixing sticky concrete, only you need to use 1 hand to hold the bowl! My arms are more tired than when I do my overhead press/bicep curl routine, just brutal. The funniest part, I've used tricks to make the mixing easier
, and it is still a beastly job. Min 3.5 hours baking, usually do 4 hours... this is serious cake!
My biggest trick is using fully melted butter, which is so much easier to mix. As in, probably twice as easy. The only other trick is mixing the dry completely, then adding and stirring in the liquids, and finally, stirring in the 'aggregate' dried fruits, nuts, and candied fruit.
This year I am presoaking the various raisins in brandy before baking, hoping to avoid the slightly burnt raisins on the outside of the cake. It wasn't a big problem, but I am seeking perfection, not just 'good'!
This might have further eased stirring. I used a heavier brandy for the soaking, so it should leave some flavour even after it has evaporated during cooking.
After it cools, I wrap the cakes in fresh cheesecloth and season it daily with good brandy, usually pouring 1 or 2 tbsp daily until the cake is pretty saturated. This is pretty expensive cake if you haven't figured it out, but its usually fit for royalty. Hell, if I ever get married I'll be able to make a traditional cake. This isn't anything like the dry fruitless shame-loafs they sell as fruitcakes at stores, these are truly transcendent. I still can't believe the noble fruitcake is the butt of jokes, but I admit purchased ones are often atrocious.
This first batch is close to the original recipe, but with doubled candied cherries (the recipe was a bit light on them, and most of my family loves the cherries... I suspect they'd eat candied cherries if they could do so with dignity!). This year I used freshly ground nutmeg, ground up very fine in my 40lb mortar. Love using that monster, even if it's a hassle to get out! After this batch, I'll bake 3 specialty cakes, each 1/3 of a batch.
This is a lot of mixing, but I love to try new versions, and this year I will be baking a blueberry cake using pecan nuts and no cherries spiced with cinnamon, a cake with tons of candied peel with cashew nuts spiced with cloves and ginger, and a black current based cake which I need to fully work out still. I've baked the first two before very successfully, but I'm going out on quite the limb here trying black currents. I have to do some research I think, black currents have an unusual flavour after all.
I should make a big batch of caramels this week too, though I really need to buy a good thermometer I think. My results are never bad, but they seem to vary the equivalent of 10 degrees sometimes, so I've had soft batches and some a bit hard. I've also had fudge that refused to set, but I think I didn't boil it long enough. Candy is science damnit!
All this reminds I ought to lose some 20lbs by Christmas, or none of my pants will fit me by January. On that note, I'm going for a jog!