My brother always reveals our working class roots by bemoaning the lack of Vienetta on our Christmas table. It’s true that when we were young we both abhorred Christmas cake and pudding, so we were treated to gigantic portions of the classic ice cream treat (bought from Iceland, obviously). It’s odd that the sweet traditional foods of a British Christmas are so polarising – how many kids really like Christmas pudding? I’ve spent much of the last two weeks trying to describe mince pies to baffled foreign students, who struggle to get beyond the “mincemeat” part of the equation. (Yesterday I also had the pleasure of introducing them to Christmas crackers – they thought I was crazy when I said we pull them at dinner time and wear our paper crowns while we eat.)
As so many people aren’t crazy about the traditional baked goods, it’s wise to have a few other treats at the ready. This cake, like the Ginger Cream, is a happy alternative. It’s lighter than a Christmas cake, and so beautifully spiced. The fruit and nuts on top are festive and tart, and because it’s not iced it’s not overwhelmingly decadent in this season of indulgence.
Posh Spice Cake
From BBC GoodFood
85g self raising flour
140g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
175g golden caster sugar
zest of 1 small orange
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp mixed spice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
140g butter, cut into pieces
85g dried cranberries
For the topping:
85g frozen cranberries, thawed
15g golden caster sugar
1. Butter and base line a deep, 18cm loose-bottomed tin and preheat the oven to 170C.
2. Stir together the flours, baking powder and sugar.
3. Stir the spices and orange zest into the flour mixture.
4. Rub the butter into the mix until it looks like breadcrumbs.
5. Coarsely chop half the pecans and stir into the mix with the raisins, sultanas and cranberries.
6. Beat the egg, pour in the milk and stir into the cake mixture.
8. Bake for 45 mins, then lower the heat to 150C and bake for another 45 mins.
9. While the cake bakes, prepare the topping. Pat the cranberries dry on kitchen paper, then toss with the sugar in a small bowl. (In the absence of golden caster sugar, I think this silvery snow effect works too.)
10. After the second 45 mins of baking, spoon the sugared cranberries over the top of the cake.
11. Return to the oven for another 15-20 mins, or until the cranberries are sticky and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
12. Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack.
13. Decorate with ribbon. The cake is best kept overnight for the flavours to mellow before slicing. Will keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks.