This white port has hints of peach and dried fruit.
What better accompaniment than my Central Otago fruit cake.
I always make a Christmas cake on November 15th every year, and spike it with brandy or port each two weeks leading up to Christmas. I’ve got this great recipe for a truly moist cake, it’s delicious with or without the traditional icing – I roll my almond and white icing wafer thin with a smattering of marmalade between the layers to bond it all.
This is not a recipe for those in a hurry! It is a ritual in which great pleasure is taken, even in the careful lining of the tin, the soaking of the fruit overnight, and the nip of brandy for each (grown up!) family member. As the fruit is macerated and ceremonially mixed, the fruity Christmassy scent is inhaled and Christmas toasts are made…
It’s is also not a cheap recipe. But it does keep for months and so with that in mind, and the fact that you only eat a small amount at a time, it is very good value in retrospect.
It’s such a decadent treat to sit with a little square of moist Christmas cake and a tot of Port Molyneux!
By Debbie Crompton
Central Otago Christmas Cake
On November 15th, Leave over night:
1.75 cups nectarine juice
.75 cup Brandy
1 cup Razz cherries
2 cups Medjool dates, chopped
1 cup dried peaches, chopped into chunky pieces
250g dried pears, chopped into chunky pieces
450g mixed peel and crystalised ginger
Zest of 2 oranges, 1 lemon, 1 lime – if using a zester, don’t worry about chopping.
The next day Line a very big square tin with a square of cardboard to sit on the bottom, then two layers of brown paper which need to come up the sides, and finally one layer of baking paper, also to come up the sides. My tin is 30cm square and 10cm deep, but I’ve also made two cakes one year using a 23cm tin plus a smaller one (which I took out of the oven an hour earlier). Find a pan which will hold 1 litre of hot water within the oven while the cake is cooking, and a sheet of tinfoil which will fit loosely over the top of the cake. Read the recipe to the end to be sure you have enough bowls – the final bowl needs to be quite large. Pre-heat the oven to 150⁰C.
Prepare the dry ingredients:
2.5 cups sieved flour
.5 teaspoon baking soda, sieved with the flour
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon bitter cocoa powder (e.g.good Dutch or Valrhona)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
.5 cup each pistachios and pecans
Mix all dry ingredients well with a large spoon.
Prepare the wet ingredients in a very large bowl:
Cream 250g soft butter till very light and fluffy and pale with
1.5 cups brown sugar.
Add 2 tablespoons treacle, then
5 eggs, added one at a time, beating well after each. Add essences:
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
.5 teaspoon almond essence
1 teaspoon orange essence
You will now have three bowls to incorporate: The soaked fruit, the dry, and the wet ingredients in the largest bowl. Add the soaked fruit and the dry ingredients alternately, don’t over mix. Fill the tin, leveling the surface, and cover loosely with foil. Put the dish of hot water in there too. Bake in the lower half of the oven for 4 hours at 150 ⁰C, or until a skewer comes out clean.
When done, place the tin on a rack but leave the cake in the tin until cold, wrap in foil and then store in a cake tin. After two weeks, spike the cake with a skewer or knitting needle and drizzle half a cup of brandy over. Repeat each two weeks and you will have a truly moist and delicious cake!