It’s hard to believe another year has flown by and once again Christmas Eve is upon us.
On Sunday morning, our whole family – aunts, uncles, cousins and great-grandchildren – came together at Grandmama’s for Christmas brunch.
I just adore Christmas. It is my absolute favourite time of year for so many reasons, but one of these is the whole family getting together under one roof to celebrate.
Year after year I still get ridiculously excited for our festive traditions; Grandmama’s tables joined together to fit everyone in and weighed down with platters of delicious fare (we have so many excellent cooks in the family), the good china and crystal brought out for the special occasion, the bangs and scent of Christmas crackers going off, paper crowns and terrible jokes, champagne and laughter…
And amid numerous animated conversations and surrounded by high spirits, my grandmother – the family matriarch – sits at the head of the table in her usual chair, serene and delighted in her quiet way to see all together again.
My contribution this year was a gorgeous Christmas cake, laden with fruit that had been soaked in liqueur syrup since the first of December.
The garnishing of little marzipan oranges and holly make it a resplendent dessert (even if a little old-fashioned, although that is part of its charm).
The recipe advises that this cake freezes very well and can be kept for at least a year in a cool dark place (if for some inexplicable reason you don’t finish it before New Year’s…?). To store, simply keep the greaseproof paper from the tin wrapped around the cake and enclose securely in plastic wrap.
Merry Christmas to all and I wish you safe and happy holidays…
grand marnier christmas cake
adapted from ‘best recipes from the australian woman’s weekly’
grand marnier fruit mix (start about one month in advance)
2 cups raisins
1 cup sultanas
1 cup mixed peel
1 cup dates
1 cup prunes
5 glace apricots
6 miniature glace pears
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 cup blanched almonds
zest of 1 orange, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped
juice of half an orange
1 cup grand marnier liqueur, plus additional to brush the top of the cake
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup almond meal
1 cup plain flour
3 packets marzipan
orange food colouring
fresh holly leaves
Place the sultanas and mixed peel in a large mixing bowl. Chop the rest of the dried and glace fruit the same size as the sultanas and add to the bowl.
Add the walnuts, blanched almonds, orange juice, zest and liqueur, stirring thoroughly until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
Place the fruit mixture in a large mason jar with a tightly fitting lid (or other airtight container).
Stand overnight and then flip the whole jar upside down the following day, allowing the syrup that has pooled in the base of the jar to trickle down the other way. Invert the jar each day until you’re ready to bake the cake…
Preheat your oven to 140°C.
Prepare a deep round 23 centimetre (9 inch) cake tin by lining the base and sides with three layers of greaseproof paper.
Beat the butter until soft and add the brown sugar, beating until combined.
Add the eggs the one at a time, beating only until combined before adding the next egg.
Pour the fruit mixture into a large bowl and add the butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon or your hand, stir well until the fruit and nuts are coated.
Add the flour and almond meal, stirring again until the cake batter is thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared cake tin.
The original recipe says to bake the cake for three hours but I checked my cake at the two hour mark and it was well and truly ready. To allow for differences in individual ovens and be on the safe size, I suggest popping on a timer to check the cake every 30 minutes after the one and a half hour point with a metal cake skewer.
Once baked all the way through, brush the top evenly with a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier liqueur, cover with aluminium foil and let the cake cool completely in the tin.
To make the marzipan oranges, dust your hands well with sifted icing sugar and roll the marzipan into 12 evenly-sized balls.
Roll the balls over the small size of a box grater to create the effect of orange skin. Paint with orange food dye and place on a wire rack to dry overnight. Use your finger to make a small indent into the top of the orange and press a clove into the indent.
Arrange the oranges evenly around the top of the fruitcake and garnish with fresh holly.