Festive baking with Jan Bilton
Christmas is almost here so it’s time to jingle your bells and fire up the oven. Luckily festive bakes and some desserts are best made well ahead because they mellow over time and become easier to cut. And they taste better!
However, some bakes can be relatively expensive. If you enjoy a light fruit cake then try my six-ingredient special which is free from butter and sugar. It’s a ‘fake’ Christmas cake really as it doesn’t keep as long as a traditional one but it is certainly more economical. And it can, of course, be dressed up with icing, nuts or glacé cherries.
Baking times will vary with different ovens. Fan-assisted ovens could take a shorter time. It is wise to cook rich cakes on a low temperature (150-160°C) to prevent the fruit from burning. If you press the cake in the centre and it springs back without leaving a dent, then the cake is cooked. Test also with a thin skewer. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked. Once it is cool, wrap the cake in a double layer of foil and keep in a cool place.
High-grade flour is recommended for cakes containing a lot of dried fruit as it helps provides support.
Also use level metric measures and when measuring flour or sugar: spoon it into the measuring cup and lightly level the top with a spoon or knife. Do not pack it into the cup. The only ingredient one normally packs firmly is brown sugar.
This light cake keeps well in a cool place for one month or it can be frozen. It’s also economical — no added butter or sugar. For a festive look, blanched almonds or glacé cherries can be placed on top before baking. Get the recipe
This rich cake keeps well for several months when wrapped in foil and stored in a cool place. Get the recipe