Monday, 10 December 2018

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake
18 Sep
7:38

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Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake. It’s a big wow!

For this recipe, I’ve made a twist on the traditional Christmas fruit cake.

In the United Kingdom, a traditional Christmas fruitcake is usually made up of a huge array of dried fruits such as raisins, sultanas, mixed dried peel, dried chopped apricots. In fact, in the run-up to the Festive period, the supermarkets even sell ready-made bags of mixed dried fruit, all chopped up so people can just add the whole bag to their Christmas cake. As for the nuts, it’s common to add a mixture of chopped walnuts, brazil nuts and sometimes almonds.

A traditional Christmas cake is always laced with alcohol too. Usually, it is brandy or whiskey. I find those spirits a bit harsh, so I use Spiced Rum. It seems to compliment the spices in the cake and goes lovely with the cranberries and sultanas too.

Christmas cake is one of those things when you ask people if they like it or not, you usually get a mixed response. And why is that? The majority seem to say they hate the candied peel in the cake! I am the same! The candied peel does have a bitter taste and for me, I have always left it out of the cake when I’ve made a Christmas cake.

So I decided to make my own version of a Christmas Fruit Cake, one using ingredients that I enjoy and also my friends. After all, Christmas cake is definitely for sharing, and when friends come over to celebrate Christmas, then a slice of Christmas cake with a glass of Sherry or a cup of tea is what is in order!

This Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, as with most Christmas cakes, is very rich. You only need a small slice. It’s loaded with alcohol, so it isn’t child-friendly. If you wanted to make a separate one for the children, swap the rum for orange juice. However, Christmas cake is usually an adult thing, and the kiddies seem to prefer sponge type cakes or chocolate cakes over the Christmas period. I guess the fruit and nuts in the cake appeal more to the adult taste buds!

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

You will see from the ingredients there is a lot of dried fruit. The measures are correct! That’s why the cake is very rich.

The trick to a good Christmas cake is to make sure you pre-soak the fruit and also, after baking, to feed it regularly with rum before you decorate the cake.

The instructions might seem a little overwhelming, but bear in mind this cake should be prepared in stages, so you don’t do the whole recipe all at once. Each part of the instructions should only take a maximum of 10 – 20 minutes to prepare, such as making the cake batter. The decorating at the end can take as long as you wish, depending on how plain or elaborate you wish to make your Christmas cake.

In the recipe below, I’ve added instructions on how to add the layer of marzipan, and then the layer of icing on the cake. You’ll also find a recipe for how to make Royal Icing for piping, so you can pipe your own decorations, write an inscription such as Merry Christmas on the cake or do some patterns if you feel confident with piping.

This recipe, ideally, should be started in September, so you have plenty of time to soak the fruits in rum. This will mean the cranberries, sultanas, raisins, and cherries have time to absorb the alcohol and plump up so they’re bursting with juiciness.

Once the cake has been baked, the other important part of making a good Christmas cake is to feed it regularly. So what does ‘feeding’ a cake mean? Simply put, you pour alcohol over the top of the cake in holes you have pre-made using a toothpick or skewer. Allow the alcohol time to absorb into the cake and then feed it some more! For this recipe, we suggest you feed the cake over a period of 4 – 6 weeks, adding a capful of rum each week so it matures and gets a lovely flavor. The smell is amazing!

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

If there are any ingredients you’re not familiar with, I’ve tried to add some items throughout the recipe to give you an idea of what to look for.

So as a rough guide to when you should start making your Christmas fruit cake, we suggest you begin soaking the fruits in September, bake the cake toward the end of November, feed the cake until 2 weeks before Christmas, and then 2 weeks before Christmas Day, decorate so you can have it on show right up to Christmas day when you come to slice the cake.

This cake does freeze very well indeed, although it will also last for several months if kept wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil. I often cut a quarter of the cake just for freezing so I can eat it during the Summer months…. only because I love Christmas cake!

In the instructions below, I’ve added a few tips along the way of how I do things, and hope they will be useful to you too. If there are any questions you have please do ask in the comments at the end of the post and I’ll be happy to help.

So let’s get straight to the recipe and see how we make this delicious Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake. Please enjoy and have as much fun decorating the cake as you will eating it!

For the pre-soaking:
7 oz or 200 g Dried Cranberries
3 1/2 oz or 100 g Raisins
17 1/2 oz or 500 g Sultanas
3 1/2 oz or 100 g Chopped Glacé or Candied Red Cherries
6 1/2 Fl oz or 200ml Spiced Dark Rum (I use Morgan’s Spiced Rum)

For those who aren’t sure where to get Glace Red Cherries from, here is what they look like so you know!

For the cake:
8 oz or 225g Plain / All Purpose Flour
½ Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
½ Teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice
8 oz or 225g Dark Brown Soft Sugar
4 Large Eggs
1 Tablespoon Black Treacle
8 oz or 225 g Butter, room temperature
3 1/2 oz or 100 g Chopped Pecan Nuts
Zest of 1 Lemon
Zest of 1 Orange

Black Treacle is a wonderful ingredient and can also be used for making cookies too! Here’s what we use in our Christmas Cake recipe;

For feeding and topping:
Morgans Spiced Rum

For Decorating the cake:
5 Tablespoons Apricot Jam
1 box (16 oz or 454 g) Ready to Roll Marzipan
1 box (16 oz or 454 g) Ready to Roll Regal Icing Sugar
4 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar (for rolling out marzipan and icing layers)
1 Tablespoon Rum
Red and Green Food Coloring.
Cake Board

Here’s what we used for the marzipan and Regal icing. We can recommend these brands.

and for the cake board, this is one we can recommend;

Royal Icing for piping:
2 -3 Tablespoons water
9 oz or 250 g Royal Icing Sugar

If you’re looking for Royal Icing Sugar, we can recommend this brand (you will only need to use half of the amount in the box and you only need to add water)

Instructions:

Soaking the fruit:

1. First, you need to soak the dried fruit. I usually do this around September time, and simply leave until 4 weeks before Christmas, or at the end of November, when I will bake the cake. You can soak the fruit the night before using, but the longer time the fruit has to soak, the better!

Add all the dried fruit ingredients to an airtight container. I use a Tupperware box with a good lid to seal. Add the Spiced rum and give it a good stir and place the lid on. Leave in a cool place such as a pantry and every week or so, give the box a shake to mix the fruit around.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

and 2 months later, the fruit looks like this, juicy, rum infused and delicious!Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

2. To make the cake, as mentioned above, I usually do this in the last week of November. Follow the directions below:
Preheat oven to 275 F or 140 C. Double line an 8-inch square baking tin with parchment paper. i.e use 2 layers of parchment paper.

If you’re not sure how to line a pan, see here for our easy step by step guide.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

3. Sift the flour, salt, and spices into a large mixing bowl, then add the beaten eggs, softened butter, zest, and treacle.
*Tip: To make it easier to get the treacle from the container, pop the container (with the lid on) in a bowl of hot water to soften it a bit.
Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Beat the ingredients using an electric mixer or wooden spoon until everything is combined and smooth. The batter should have a fluffy, soft texture.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

4. Add the fruit and pecans, then fold in gently with a spoonCranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

5. Transfer the cake mixture to your lined tin and spread out evenly. Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Place in the oven for about 4 hours to 4 1/2 hours. Check after 4 hours and if you gently push down on the center of the cake, it should spring back up.
*TIP: if you feel the cake is browning too much after 3 hours, pop a piece of parchment or foil over the top. I didn’t need to do this, but as you know, every oven is slightly different.

6. Once the cake is done, leave in the tin for 30 minutes then turn out top side DOWN on to a cooling rack.
*TIP: We turn the cake out upside down so we will have a nice flat surface for decoration. If your cake cracks, don’t worry about it because we will decorate it anyway.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

7. Once cooled, place a large piece of foil and then the same size piece of parchment paper on the work surface an transfer the cake on to that. We will use this double layer of foil and parchment to wrap the cake up. Taking the sides of the paper, lift the cake into a storage box.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Feeding the cake:

8. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the surface of the cake then pour a capful of spiced rum over the cake, making sure you distribute to the sides too. Cover the cake with the overhang of the parchment and foil, and place the lid on the container.

9. Feed the cake with a capful of rum every week to 10 days, making sure you seal the container to keep all the lovely goodness in!

10. 2 – 3 weeks before Christmas, I decorate the cake. Here’s what I do, of course, you can be as creative as you like with your decorating.

Decorate the cake:
11. Place the cake in the center of the cake board.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

12. Place the apricot jam in a small bowl and warm through in the microwave for 20 seconds. Use a brush and spread the jam evenly all over the top and sides of the cake.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

13. Lightly dust the work surface with powdered sugar. Roll out the marzipan so it covers the top and sides of the cake.Ready To Roll Marzipan
*TIP: Place the original cake tin over the rolled out marzipan so you can judge how much you need to roll to cover the cake.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

14. Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake and using your hands gently press down to make sure there are no air pockets. Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Smooth over using the rolling pin very gently or a round-bladed pastry knife. Trim off any excess marzipan.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

*TIP: You can use any excess marzipan for decorations by adding some red food coloring and making into little balls for the berries if you want to make some, holly leaves decorations.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Leave the marzipan for at least 24 hours in a dry place to dry out before covering with the ready to roll icing.

15. Make the royal icing from the packaging and using your hands, knead it until it becomes pliable. Lightly dust the work surface with powdered sugar. Then roll out as you did the marzipan, so it is enough to cover the sides and top of the cake. Brush a thin layer of rum all over the marzipan so the icing will stick to it.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

16. Gently place the rolled icing over the cake and smooth over, gently pressing so there are no air pockets. Trim the sides and edges along the cake so the icing comes down to the cake board. Smooth over with your palette knife or rolling pin.

*TIP: If you need to get rid of any joint lines just dab your finger in a cup of water and softly rub over the area and it will smooth out. Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

17. Using the trimmings from the marzipan and icing, decide what decorations you’d like then add some red and green food coloring. I made some simple holly leaves with berries by dividing the icing trimmings, mixing a couple of drops of red and same for green to the trimmings.

Mix the coloring in with your hands then roll out the icing. Use a sharp knife and cut out the shapes. Set aside on some parchment paper to dry out.Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

18. You can also buy ready-made decorations or pipe decorations or the words ‘Merry Christmas’ using the Royal Icing Mixture for piping.

If you’d like to add a band around the side like I have, you can buy them from craft shops. Simply cut to the size of the cake so it fits all the way around and stick together using a few dots of the piping icing below. Make sure the joint is at the back of the cake!

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Here’s a couple of ready-made sugar decorations which would look nice on your cake if you don’t want to make your own;

To make the royal icing for piping:

Mix the water and Royal Icing together until smooth and the icing forms soft peaks. *Add the water in stages until combined. You may only need 2 Tablespoons of water. Then transfer to a piping bag with your desired nozzle.

* If you want to make colored icing, simply add a few drops of food coloring of your choice.
The icing will set hard so you do need to use it immediately.

19. To stick the decorations on the cake, you will need to use a few dots of the piping icing underneath.

20. When you’ve finished decorating the cake, leave in a clean area and allow the air to dry the icing out so it becomes hard. the cake itself won’t dry out so don’t worry!

By the way, my piping skills aren’t terrific BUT I had a lot of fun decorating the cake and it tastes amazing! So however you decide to decorate your cake, have lots of fun!
When you wish to serve, simply slice and enjoy!

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Here are a few more lovely festive recipes for you to enjoy!

Cranberry and White Chocolate Pound CakeCranberry and White Chocolate Pound Cake

Simple Cranberry and Apple SauceSimple Cranberry and Apple Sauce. A very easy recipe and goes great with a turkey dinner! Use as a sauce or marinade, add in wraps, salads, the possibilities are endless. Make ahead, freezer friendly and make great gifts in little jars too! Thanksgiving and Christmas Collection | Lovefoodies.com

Spiced Pecan Carrot CakeSpiced Pecan Carrot Cake! A delicious spiced cake made from scratch. Fluffy, soft and bursting with the flavors of Fall! Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas holidays!  #Cake #Thanksgiving #Christmas #Easter #Fall #Carrotcake #Winter

Cranberry and White Chocolate CookiesCranberry and White Chocolate Cookies. A lovely easy recipe and great for gift packages at Christmas! | Lovefoodies.com

Honey Roasted NutsHoney Roasted Nuts, a delicious easy snack, perfect for parties and gifts too! Seasoned with honey and cinnamon and a pinch of salt.

Irish Cream Chocolate BarkIrish Cream Chocolate Bark! A delicious chocolate treat loaded with cranberries, cookies and honey spiced nuts. Perfect for the holidays and great for gifts.

Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas.

Prep Time 1 hour

Cook Time 4 hours

Total Time 5 hours

Ingredients

  • For the Pre Soaking:
  • 7 oz or 200 g Dried Cranberries
  • 3 1/2 oz or 100 g Raisins
  • 17 1/2 oz or 500 g Sultanas
  • 3 1/2 oz or 100 g Chopped Glacé or Candied Red Cherries
  • 6 1/2 Fl oz or 200ml Spiced Dark Rum (I use Morgan’s Spiced Rum)
  • For the Cake
  • 8 oz or 225g Plain / All Purpose Flour
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice
  • 8 oz or 225g Dark Brown Soft Sugar
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Black Treacle
  • 8 oz or 225 g Butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 oz or 100 g Chopped Pecan Nuts
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • For the Feeding and Topping:
  • Morgans Spiced Rum
  • For Decorating the cake:
  • 5 Tablespoons Apricot Jam
  • 1 box (16 oz or 454 g) Ready to Roll Marzipan
  • 1 box (16 oz or 454 g) Ready to Roll Regal Icing Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar (for rolling out marzipan and icing layers)
  • 1 Tablespoon Rum
  • Red and Green Food Coloring.
  • Cake Board
  • Royal Icing for piping:
  • 2 -3 Tablespoons water
  • 9 oz or 250 g Royal Icing Sugar

Instructions

1. First, you need to soak the dried fruit. I usually do this around September time, and simply leave until 4 weeks before Christmas, or at the end of November, when I will bake the cake. You can soak the fruit the night before using, but the longer time the fruit has to soak, the better! 

Add all the dried fruit ingredients to an airtight container. I use a Tupperware box with a good lid to seal. Add the Spiced rum and give it a good stir and place the lid on. Leave in a cool place such as a pantry and every week or so, give the box a shake to mix the fruit around.

2. To make the cake, as mentioned above, I usually do this in the last week of November. Follow the directions below:

Preheat oven to 275 F or 140 C. Double line an 8-inch square baking tin with parchment paper.

 i.e use 2 layers of parchment paper.

3. Sift the flour, salt, and spices into a large mixing bowl, then add the beaten eggs, softened butter and treacle. 

*Tip: To make it easier to get the treacle from the container, pop the container (with the lid on) in a bowl of hot water to soften it a bit. 

Beat the ingredients using an electric mixer or wooden spoon until everything is combined and smooth. The batter should have a fluffy, soft texture.

4. Add the fruit and pecans, lemon and orange zest then fold in gently with a spoon

5. Transfer the cake mixture to your lined tin and spread out evenly. Place in the oven for about 4 hours to 4 1/2 hours. Check after 4 hours and if you gently push down on the center of the cake, it should spring back up. 

*TIP: if you feel the cake is browning too much after 3 hours, pop a piece of parchment or foil over the top. I didn’t need to do this, but as you know, every oven is slightly different. 

6. Once the cake is done, leave in the tin for 30 minutes then turn out top side DOWN on to a cooling rack. 

*TIP: We turn the cake out upside down so we will have a nice flat surface for decoration. 

If your cake cracks, don’t worry about it because we will decorate it anyway. 

7. Once cooled, place a large piece of foil and then the same size piece of parchment paper on the work surface an transfer the cake on to that. We will use this double layer of foil and parchment to wrap the cake up. Taking the sides of the paper, lift the cake into a storage box. 

8. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the surface of the cake then pour a capful of spiced rum over the cake, making sure you distribute to the sides too. Cover the cake with the overhang of the parchment and foil, and place the lid on the container.

9. Feed the cake with a capful of rum every week to 10 days, making sure you seal the container to keep all the lovely goodness in! 

10. 2 – 3 weeks before Christmas, I decorate the cake. Here’s what I do, of course, you can be as creative as you like with your decorating. 

Decorate the cake:

11. Place the cake in the center of the cake board.

12. Place the apricot jam in a small bowl and warm through in the microwave for 20 seconds. Use a brush and spread the jam evenly all over the top and sides of the cake.

13. Lightly dust the work surface with powdered sugar. Roll out the marzipan so it covers the top and sides of the cake. 

*TIP: Place the original cake tin over the rolled out marzipan so you can judge how much you need to roll to cover the cake.

14. Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake and using your hands gently press down to make sure there are no air pockets. Smooth over using the rolling pin very gently or a round-bladed pastry knife. Trim off any excess marzipan. 

*TIP: You can use any excess marzipan for decorations by adding some red food coloring and making into little balls for the berries if you want to make some, holly leaves decorations. Leave the marzipan for at least 24 hours in a dry place to dry out before covering with the ready to roll icing. 

15. Make the royal icing from the packaging and using your hands, knead it until it becomes pliable. Lightly dust the work surface with powdered sugar. Then roll out as you did the marzipan, so it is enough to cover the sides and top of the cake.

 Brush a thin layer of rum all over the marzipan so the icing will stick to it. 

16. Gently place the rolled icing over the cake and smooth over, gently pressing so there are no air pockets. Trim the sides and edges along the cake so the icing comes down to the cake board. Smooth over with your palette knife or rolling pin.

17. Using the trimmings from the marzipan and icing, decide what decorations you’d like then add some red and green food coloring. I made some simple holly leaves with berries by dividing the icing trimmings, mixing a couple of drops of red and same for green to the trimmings. Mix the coloring in with your hands then roll out the icing. Use a sharp knife and cut out the shapes. Set aside on some parchment paper to dry out.

18. You can also buy ready-made decorations or pipe decorations or the words ‘Merry Christmas’ using the Royal Icing Mixture for piping. 

If you’d like to add a band around the side like I have, you can buy them from craft shops. Simply cut to the size of the cake so it fits all the way around and stick together using a few dots of the piping icing below. 

To make the royal icing for piping:

Mix the water and Royal Icing together until smooth and the icing forms soft peaks. *Add the water in stages until combined. You may only need 2 Tablespoons of water. Then transfer to a piping bag with your desired nozzle.

* If you want to make colored icing, simply add a few drops of food coloring of your choice. 

The icing will set hard so you do need to use it immediately.

19. To stick the decorations on the cake, you will need to use a few dots of the piping icing underneath.

20. When you’ve finished decorating the cake, leave in a clean area and allow the air to dry the icing out so it becomes hard. the cake itself won’t dry out so don’t worry! 

When you wish to serve, simply slice and enjoy!

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Cranberry and Pecan Christmas Cake, loaded with delicious fruits and Spiced Rum. A perfect treat for Christmas!

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