When it comes to cakes, I do like the odd slice with a cup of tea or coffee but I wouldn't say I was a big cake eater.
A small piece of lemon drizzle or chocolate cake goes down well and possibly a bigger piece of coffee and walnut would suffice.
But I have never been a fan of fruit cakes such as Dundee or Christmas Cakes and have always held the belief that they are only edible accompanied by a large piece of cheese. In fact I don't think there is anything that can't be improved by a lump of good cheddar!
I’ve tried the German Stollen, the Italian Panforte and even the Irish Barmbrack but always feel relieved when I’m finished eating them when I can then concentrate on the cheese.
But I have many friends who adore a traditional fruit cake and I do enjoy making one for them.
I always make a Christmas cake for my mother and although she loves it, there is usually enough left that she is still eating it in late summer as the nights start drawing in.
So this year I have decided to make mini Christmas cakes. Same recipe I normally make, but in smaller more manageable sizes that my mother could finish before Easter.
The usual suspects, plus a few others, are here in these cakes - muscovado sugar, dates, glazed & dried cherries, mixed nuts, mixed peel, raisins, crystallised stem ginger, black treacle, spices etc - and they all adapt well to a smaller size cake.
I used a Lakeland 12 hole mini sandwich tin for the cakes which worked very well and I didn't even have to line the tins with parchment as you would normally do. And no double wrapping needed. Just spoon in your cake mix and pop in the oven and you will have 12 mini Christmas cakes, all the same size, in about 40 minutes. Once cooled, you will need to feed them with alcohol of your choice for a couple of weeks before icing to keep them moist and full of the festive flavour.
Or just keep a couple back and have a slice or five with a cuppa (they are small slices so there is no guilt involved here), and possibly (definitely in my case) a piece of cheese.
These also make great little foodie gifts for Christmas, so if any of my neighbours are reading this, guess what Santa is bringing you!
FRUIT INGREDIENTS (makes about 12 cakes)
200g dark muscovado sugar
100g glazed red cherries, halved
100g dried cherries, halved
100g mixed nuts, roughly chopped
100g soft stoned dates, roughly chopped
100g mixed peel (candied lemon & orange peel)
100g crystallised stem ginger, chopped
150ml apple juice
175g unsalted butter
2 tbsp black treacle
Place all the above ingredients in a large pan, stir around and gently heat until the butter has melted and sugar dissolved. Then bring up to a boil, remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 170°c/150°c fan.
50g self raising flour
1tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
100g ground almonds
4 medium eggs, lightly beaten
whisky or brandy for 'feeding'
Place the flours and all the spices into a mixing bowl and add the beaten eggs and cooled fruit mixture. Stir everything together until combined and fill up each individual cake space to the top (you may have a spoonful or two of mix left over).
Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes depending on your oven until the little cakes just start coming away from the sides and a wooden skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool for about 30 minutes and then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
Prick the cakes with a toothpick, drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of whisky or brandy and wrap well in foil, put in an airtight cake tin or container and leave to mature for a week or two, more if you have the time. Give them a feed with more alcohol each week but make sure the tops are dry before icing them if that is what you decide to do.
Paint the top of the cake with some smooth apricot conserve and stick on a disc of marzipan you have rolled and repeat with some white icing. I just use ready rolled white icing (from supermarkets) which I cut out and drape over the top.
Being a bit of a fancy pants I cut round the edge of the icing to make it look nice and add a couple of icing holly leaves and some berries for a festive feel. You don't have to do this but it depends how artistic your bent is!
So it’s time to get in the Christmas spirit with these wee cakes, and they even make me see the fruit cake in a different light - with some cheese perhaps?