Friday, December 26, 2008

Cake or Death? Death by Cake please...

I thought I'd get right in there with a photo of the finished article, should my writing fail to grab your attention. Is it not divine and beautiful, a magnificent specimen of marvellous cakedom? I defy any reader to deny its inner goodness. And I should think so too - this thing probably cost darn near £30 to make up (yes, I really was geeky enough to tot up the bill) and I would wager that each slice contains every single one of your RDA of vitamins and minerals, not to mention well over twice your daily recommended calorie and alcohol intake. How can you resist?

From start to finish the whole adventure has lasted some two weeks, I'd say. Ten days before Christmas Ma Pea and I waltzed gaily around the aisles of Waitrose, piling the trolley high with all sorts of fruity goodies, as well as nuts, icing sugar, flour, eggs, butter, and all those other requisite ingredients which make up the traditional Christmas cake.

Turns out that making a Christmas cake is not an activity for the faint of heart or, for that matter, faint of muscle. Nor for those short on time. From start to finish the entire exercise took some 6-8 hours, and that's before the marzipan and icing are added on. One of the main reasons I'll warrant which forces most to head for the ready-bought cake.

As I'm writing this on the eve of a rather last minute flying trip to Italy, I'm forced to make the cake-making revelries and descriptions rather shorter than is my usual way. However, suffice to say that the cake wasn't made without a few mini dramas - I learnt that chopping over 1 kilo of various sticky gloopy dried fruits is no mean feat, and is rather like one of those tasks that you'd be given in hell, though eventually I overcame the mountain and reigned victorious. The next hysterical fiasco was my realisation when it came to adding the cake mixture to the tin, that the recipe had called for a 24 inch ROUND cake tin, when I had, in fact, bought a 23 inch SQUARE cake tin. Furiously putting my GCSE maths to test, I figured out (after phoning a friend) that I'd need to increase the mixuture by a third for the mass to be right. Sod that. I loaded the mixture in and prayed as it baked away in the oven for a not paltry three hours.

It emerged a vision of perfection, with wafts of delightful and promising alcoholic fruitness tantalising my nostrils. I breathed a sigh of relief and got drunk on the fumes. But it had by no means reached the pinnacle of its success yet, oh no. There remained another ten days of brandy basting to come as every day I hovered lovingly over my Christmas baby, bathing it in obscene quantities of alcohol, ensuring not a crumb was left unsoaked, not a nut left unturned. Finally, Christmas Eve arrived, and the cake emerged from its brandy bath, sopping wet and spluttering more boozy fumes than a city boy on a Friday night. By now it was completely sozzled, ready and willing to be rolled up and tucked into its marzipan wrapper bed. At this stage my cosseting and fuss-making could be likened to a doting mother tending to her first-born.

At this stage though, my baby was yet half-dressed, as there remained....a cloak of glossy white icing. 2 egg whites whisked, and vast quantities of sugar whipped in, and I'd concocted what seeemed like the perfect consistency icing. I was getting rather precious about CC by this point, and delicately poking at it with a palette knife as I spread the sugar coat thickly across its top and sides. The belle of the ball it would be, with real genuine frothy peaks studding its unblemished complexion.

Then, the vandals set in, as Ma Pea tried to add a naff ballerina decoration to the apple of my eye. Some people just can't stand others' works of art:

I could barely wait for the icing to dry before I wanted to cut the first slice and taste the fruit (cake) of my (culinary) loins.
Course, I wasn't 100% what this thing was going to taste like so, for safety, I tested it out on an unsuspecting guest/guinea pig.

The result: STUPENDOUS!!! Moist, packed with a plethora of tasty dried fruits and generous quantities of hazelnuts, and with tender marzipan and the crunch of icing, this is a Christmas cake to top all Christmas cakes. Though, with the amount I've consumed already, it might well be the Christmas cake that ends me...

...still, I can't think of a better way to go.

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