Monday, October 25, 2010

Gwen Morris' amazing Christmas cake

Today I had a very nice morning thinking about my nan, Gwen. In fact, I always feel nostalgic when I think about Nan's cooking. Nan's talents used to stretch from cakes to hearty British meals to every flavour of jam and chutney you could imagine, all home made and all delicious. I was a very greedy child (much like I am now but with even less restraint) and most of my favourite childhood food memories are from big family meals at Nan and Grandad's where I could eat lots of delicious things I wasn't allowed at home. In fact, the only thing that would stop me eating every morsel that was put in front of me was the look that my mum would give me across the table to say 'you have eaten quite enough'.

Very very sadly, Nan isn't really well enough these days to cook the same as she did, so it was a great honour for me to be presented by my dad with her very well looked after copy of Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course. It has been fantastic to have because it is stuffed full of lovely memories including dated magazine cuttings, hand-written recipes, a bill for a meal we went for (with Nan's review written on the back: "Most enjoyable. All agreed. Food good. Service excellent") and notes she has made in the book alongside recipes including the dates she made things.

Imagine my delight to discover amongst the book's pages Nan's notes for how to make the perfect Christmas dinner AND the recipe for my all time favourite, her amazing Christmas cake recipe! As soon as I saw it I knew I had to make it this year, especially with our special guest Jocelyn joining us for Christmas.

As I seem to recall Nan would have her cake made by late September to give it plenty of time to mature, so today I set about making the cake. I found the process very relaxing; while I made it I spent the whole time thinking about Nan and even when I had to do the tricky bits like creaming the butter and sugar together I made sure I did them properly to her high standards.

I was surprised by the sheer amount of dried fruit that goes into the cake. No wonder it always tastes so heavy and fruity!

It took a lot less time than expected to make the cake mix and I started to think that people Nan's age must think our generation is so silly to buy everything ready made when doing it the old fashioned way is really enjoyable, actually not that difficult and I'm sure will taste loads better.

The only thing I struggled with was lining the cake tin with greaseproof paper. I don’t know if I did it right as I have never lined a tin before. Sorry Nan!

Anyway, the cake has now been baked and will later be put in an airtight container. This is only the beginning of the cake's journey as in ten days I have to 'flavour' the cake with booze and then right before Christmas I have to ice the cake. Therefore, this blog entry is definitely To Be Continued! 

Small glass of Sherry
200g butter
200g soft brown sugar
2 teaspoons golden syrup
4 large eggs
1 and a half teaspoons of brandy, rum or sherry
225g plain flour
1 kilogram of dried fruit (including currants, sultanas, raisins, apricots, glacé cherries and candied peel)
50g flaked almonds 

Soak the fruit in the glass of sherry overnight. The next day, preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Cream the butter, sugar and golden syrup together. 

Whisk the sherry into the four eggs. Add the egg mix to the creamed mixture. Sift the flour into the mixture gradually, folding in at the same time. 

Add all the fruit and almonds and mix well. Line a cake tin (if you actually know how unlike me). Pour the mixture into the cake tin and press down on the top with moist fingers. Bake in the oven at 160 degrees C for one hour and a quarter. Then reduce the oven temperature to 140 degrees C and bake for a further two hours.


  1. lovely, what happy memories!!

  2. Nans are the BEST! I have the fondest memories of my Nana's cooking and kitchen too, including her delicious Christmas cake. It's wonderful you are keeping the tradition and here cooking alive for others to enjoy!! Oh and this cake looks amazing :)

  3. Too right Nans are the best! My dad has just been to visit her and has made me a little pile of handwritten recipes he found in her house. I can't wait to see him to get them off her and start cooking! Thanks for reading.

  4. Just after Christmas, I took some of this cake down for Nan and Barbara to try and we really loved it: such a rich, rounded flavour! Delicious! Thanks Julie

  5. Gad you guys liked it Dad! There'll be more where that came from next Christmas!

  6. Just so you know, this year's cake has been made and is resting in the cupboard full of booze! :D


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