New South Wales, far south coast, Christmas Day began with the shrill cries of black cockatoos, heralding a cloudy/rainy day. Then the morning chorus of bird calls began. It is gentle at that hour – I know the hour – 5.10am – because my son was awake, and using every ounce of willpower he possessed to, a) stay awake, and b) not wake anyone else until an ‘acceptable” time. Eventually, it must have seemed like many hours to him but it was in fact only 5.40am, I heard him wake up his sister in the loudest whisper – “Merry Christmas We Are Allowed To OpenThe Presents In Our Stockings Be Quiet Every One Else Is Sleeping!!”.
The day was indeed cool overcast and drizzly. Perfect for my planned traditional turkey meal. With only a small group to feed, the Christmas meal was so easy. Not the mountains of food I remember from my childhood in the States where the turkey would cover a small table all by itself – but then we did have many more mouths to feed.
The real effort for the Christmas meal was in the cake. Fruit cakes and puddings are the Australian tradition and Wal loves a fruit cake. They are costly and time consuming to make it but worth the effort – rich and flavoursome and completely decadent.
Jen’s Fruitcake Recipe
Fruit mince can be made a few weeks ahead. I like some tartness in my fruit mince, so I use fewer raisons and sultanas than in most recipes, and substitute other dried fruits. Fill the measuring cups generously!
750 g dried dates, chopped
- 1 c sultanas
- 1 1/2 c currents
- 1 3/4 c dried apricots, chopped
- 1/2 c dried apples, chopped
- 1/2 c dried pears, chopped
- 1/2 c dried blueberries
- 1/2 c dried cranberries, halved
- 1 c decent quality brandy (I use 1/2 c standard brandy, and 1/2 c cherry brandy)
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to air tight containers and set aside to marinate until required.
Fruit cake recipe
- 9 c prepared fruit mince
- 250 g butter, softened
- 1 c raw sugar
- 1/2 c raspberry jam
- 4 lg eggs
- 1 t vanilla
- 2 3/4 c plain flour
- 1 t mixed spice
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 t ground cloves
- 3-4 T brandy or rum, extra
Double line a 23cm (9 in.) spring form cake tin with baking paper, and preheat oven to 160C.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat in. Add vanilla.
Mix dried ingredients together. Stir the fruit and combined dry ingredients in alternating batches into the mixture. Spoon into the prepared tin and tap on the counter a couple of times to remove any air pockets. Smooth over top with wet fingers or wet spoon.
Bake for 2 – 2 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately pour brandy over the cake, concentrating on the edges, and any cracks in the surface. Leave cake in the tin, cover the top with more baking paper and wrap in a large towel, and leave to cool. You can leave it this way for a number of days.
- 1 1/2 c sifted pure icing sugar
- 3 T butter, softened
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 egg white
In a small bowl, beat egg white until soft peaks form.
In a medium sized bowl beat sugar, butter and 2 T milk. Add egg white and beat until well mixed and smooth. Add milk, half a teaspoon at a time until you have the desired texture. Ice and decorate the cake as desired.
For extra extravagence, serve with cream whipped with honey, cinnamon and vanilla! Think hard about the gym as you eat – maybe that mental exercise will help!
And to finish off our Australian Christmas we had a very rare and special visitor in the garden – an echidna! Merry Christmas!