Ask Peter: Endless Christmas cake
Christmas cake — how can I get rid of the darn stuff? I am pre-empting yet another year when no one has eaten it and would love it if Bite could help with a how-to use up Christmas cake. Jacqui
Oh yes, the eternal question. I wonder if New Zealand shouldn’t have a referendum to decide if it is now okay for people to never serve Christmas cake (and Christmas pud) ever again.
I’m just not sure a summer Christmas is the best place to serve dense rich fruity cakes. I remember as a child going on camping holidays at Christmas with my family up in Fletcher Bay and Stony Bay in the Coromandel.
In the early days we’d stay in Fletcher Bay — but one fateful Christmas a man caught fire. He was filling his camp oven with fuel but hadn’t realised the flame was still on, and the plastic bottle of fuel exploded and set him and his clothes on fire. I can well remember hearing a strange “bumph” sound and looking over at a man on fire as he ran, seemingly in slow motion, towards the few families camping alongside him.
Dad and the other fathers moved him towards the shallow creek and made sure he was extinguished and kept him there. Eventually he was driven to the local hospital or doctor and we heard that although he was badly burnt, he would recover, thanks to the creek and quick-acting fathers.
That was the last year we stayed in Fletcher Bay — and Stony Bay became our go-to Christmas holiday. Dad would drive us from Whanganui over two days, our big Chevy Impala towing a trailer behind us. We’d pitch our tent and have the most fabulous holiday — the Coromandel is still a favourite place of mine.
Our days were spent swimming, walking, fishing, and eating. Lots of eating. Because everyone must have Christmas cake, we became quite good at finding alternative ways of serving it. My stepmum Rose would slice it thinly, butter both sides, then fry it on the skillet on the barbecue.
We’d serve it with whipped cream, ice cream and strawberries, all bought from Colville Store an hour and more’s drive away and the place we’d hang out in and eat Jelly Tips for a treat.
By frying the cake, all the dried fruit begins to caramelise and it takes on a far more rich and crunchy texture. Serving it with berries (or even canned Golden Queen peaches) and cream or ice cream just made it all the more delicious. We’d also barbecue it, sliced about 1.5cm thick so it didn’t fall apart on the grid, and treat it like fruit toast for breakfast.
I imagine it would also be lovely with stewed rhubarb, canned black doris plums and yoghurt for breakfast or a weekend brunch.
Another great way to use it is to make a trifle-style dessert. Slice it quite thin and layer it in a large bowl with cold coconut milk-based custard, cream that you’ve whipped with honey and yoghurt to soft peaks, poached stonefruit or fresh berry fruit or perhaps some roasted bananas that have been mashed, toasted nuts and toasted coconut.
The trifle will be quite rich and a little will go a long way, but it sure makes a change from having to eat such a rich cake and drown it with endless cups of tea!
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.