I used to love going to my Grandma’s house at Christmas time (well, all year round, obviously, but especially in December). Though her Christmas tree was smaller than ours at home, it had two very important things going for it. 1) We were actually allowed to eat the chocolate decorations from her tree – despite buying millions, my abusive mother always forbade us from eating ours, insisting they had to last the entire duration of the festivities. 2) Grandma had Fat Robin. Is he not the very essence of Christmas?
My grandma is no longer with us, so Fat Robin now takes up residence on my mother’s tree every year. He always has pride of place, right near the front where he can be admired by all – he is a true tradition for my family. Last year I spent Christmas in Hong Kong, so I didn’t have the pleasure of seeing him. This year (in five days!) I’m flying home especially to see Fat Robin, but I’ll be too late for that other great Christmas tradition – making the Christmas cake.
To compensate, I made these cupcakes for my work Christmas party. It’s not the same as mixing up your own Christmas cake months in advance, but you get the same aroma, the same taste, the same excitement – it’s the traditional Christmas cake but in a cute and convenient new form. The real beauty of them is the almond buttercream, which gives that hint of marzipan from the real Christmas cake. Genius!
From The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days, makes 12-16 regular cupcakes
300g mixed dried fruit
200g butter, softened
200g soft dark brown sugar
160g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
60g ground almonds
Almond buttercream: 250g icing sugar, 55g softened butter, 30ml milk, 1 tsp almond essence
1. First place the dried fruit in a bowl, pour over the rum and leave to soak for at least 30 minutes until the fruit is plump and drunk – like Father Christmas!
2. Preheat the oven to 190C and line a tin with paper cake cases.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition – if the mixture curdles, just add a spoonful of flour.
5. Sift in the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and mix until combined.
6. Add the ground almonds and boozy fruit, and mix again.
7. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each one 2/3 full.
8. Bake for 18-20 minutes for regular ones, about 10 minutes for mini cakes. Cool in the tray for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
9. Use an electric mixer to beat together the buttercream ingredients (just like normal vanilla buttercream, but using almond essence instead of vanilla), spread it on the cakes and decorate festively.