Yes, it’s that time of year again, when the food blogosphere explodes with everyone’s marvellously inventive recipes for slow-cooked belly of this and tea-smoked that. Fair play to you all – even though there will only be the boyfriend and I for Christmas dinner this year, I still find the prospect of festive cooking stupidly stressful, and rely on tried and trusted recipes (and smoked salmon. And huge amounts of fizz).
However – and this may of course be Just Me, the problem with tried and trusted recipes is that just when you need them most, you find they have gone AWOL. As part of the mission statement of this blog was to provide a useful resource for such go-to gems, I am going to stick a few of my favourites on here over the next few days, in the hope that next time I find myself googling “Satan’s cake”, I will, well, find this.
A friend of mine didn’t get on with her mother-in-law. The lady in question was, however, an ace cook, and so this recipe was named. Apparently it’s a version of Delia’s, but the useful variations are all the work of Lucifer
225g plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 x 5ml spoon ground mixed spice
200g dark brown sugar
2 x 15ml spoons black treacle
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
800g mixed dried fruit
100g chopped mixed peel
150 g glace cherries halved
100 g blanched almonds chopped
3 tbsp brandy
Line an 8” round cake tin with non-stick baking parchment and tie a double layer of brown paper or corrugated cardboard around the outside.
Sieve together the floor, salt and mixed spice. Cream the butter, sugar, treacle and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, adding a tablespoon of the floor with the last amount. Fold in the remaining flour, then all the fruit and almonds. Turn into the prepared cake tin and make a slight hollow in the centre. Bake in a cool oven for 3-4 hours, testing after 3 hours by inserting a skewer into the centre; when it comes out clean the cake is cooked. Remove from oven and leave in tin until cold. Make a few holes in the top of the cake with a skewer and pour brandy over the cake while it is still warm. Wrap cake in greaseproof paper and store.
The above is the original version. Satan’s variations:
Use just a hint of salt
Use a very good quality soft margarine
I am a bit liberal with the two tablespoons of black treacle
Soak the fruit brandy for a few days and use less currants
Never use peel
Never use chopped almonds always ground
Use more brandy
Never take the cooking greaseproof wrappings off until I marzipan the cake
Tend to be heavy handed on the dried fruit
I followed most of Satan’s instructions, except I:
Used butter as per the original
Did use peel, and also dried sour cherries, cranberries and a bit of crystallised ginger
Soaked the fruit in rum
I did remove the wrapping from the cake and shrouded it in more baking parchment and foil
I also burned the crap out of the poor cake, owing to using my new oven for the first time, but thanks to the corrugated cardboard the outside was fine – I just cut off the burned top, which became the bottom of the finished cake.
To marzipan and ice the cake, I used bought stuff. Rolling out the marzipan and sticking it on the cake with the aid of warmed apricot jam is dead easy, just use plenty of icing sugar to roll. I used pre-rolled icing but rolled it a little thinner as I was worried about not having enough extra for the decorations.
American apricot stuffing
This is the traditional stuffing I always used to make at home as a child – I think I was first put on stuffing duty aged about 12, and made it every year until I moved to London when I was 28. That’s a lot of stuffing. It’s fabulous stuff – even though we’ve having beef this Christmas I plan to make some anyway, as it’s so delicious cold.
Use 6 sausages and 250g chicken liver and 1 large onion to make enough for 12 people at least, plus cold.
Finely chop one very large onion or two small, and two or three sticks of celery. Saute in plenty of butter.
In a separate pan, bring to the boil the juice of an orange and a good slug of bandy or cointreau. Add some chopped dried apricots (maybe 12?); remove from the heat and leave to cool/plump up.
Remove the onions and celery from the pan and add six good pork sausages, skinned and broken up with a fork. Fry until no longer pink. Add 250g chopped chicken or turkey liver.
In a large bowl, mix everything together. Add flaked almonds (half a packet or more if you like), tarragon, sage, S&P, fresh white breadcrumbs (lots – maybe a quarter to a third of a loaf for this quantity) and enough chicken stock to make a hard-to-stir stuffing texture.
Put it into a well-greased dish and dot with butter. Cover with foil and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour.
At this point it can happily be left overnight or even for a couple of days in the fridge. When you are ready to serve it, spoon some of the cooking goo from the turkey over and heat, covered with foil at first if there is a lot of it. Remove the foil for the last bit of the cooking time and blast under the grill if necessary to give a crisp, brown top.