Wednesday, 28 November 2012
NIGEL'S CHRISTMAS CAKE
Have you made your Christmas cake yet?
Do you make a Christmas cake?
Do you even like Christmas cake?
I didn't. I would pick off the marzipan and the icing, leaving the slice of cake for someone else to pick at (usually my sister who wasn't bothered about the icing, quite handy really). But at some point, it was 2005 or 2006, when we were staying in Edinburgh for the year, heading over to Chris's parents' house for the day, I decided to make the cake from The Kitchen Diaries. When Nigel Slater writes about cooking for Christmas I immediately want to hang fairy lights, curl up and give myself over to the season. His new book has the same effect, the December chapter calling out to me, cementing its position as a book to be given December residency on the worktop. Two Nigels, Nigella, Delia, Sarah, and a few Christmas specials to keep them company. In 2006, or was it 2005, the cake was baked and fed with brandy for a few weeks, marzipanned, and covered with rough snowy icing. I bought holly shaped candles and took (no, lugged, it may only be 20cm but it is H.E.A.V.Y) the cake as my Christmas offering.
The next year I was in Sussex with Nigel's cake and Nigella's chocolate Christmas cake, and, every year since I have taken that same cake, Nigel's that is, loaded with dried figs, apricots, prunes, cranberries, raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel, glacé cherries, and hazelnuts, to Sussex. To be sliced into at some point, usually on Boxing Day, usually after lunch when we have all eaten turkey sandwiches with bread sauce, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, usually with a cup of tea before flopping onto a sofa to watch a film (or four, as on one memorable Boxing Day where a morning walk was followed by an afternoon and evening, just me and my parents, each of us lying on a sofa, watching film after film, only stirring to make cups of tea or turkey sandwiches, occasionally finding the energy to dip into a tin of Roses).
We're staying in Edinburgh this Christmas and I'm heading to Sussex for a few days the week before. I made the cake last weekend, it's sitting wrapped in baking parchment and foil, ready to be fed with calvados. I'll leave it with Mum but I think I'll make an extra mini cake just for us.
If you haven't made your Christmas cake yet can I suggest Nigel's? Over the years the page has been splashed with brandy, had ticks placed against ingredients, been smeared with sugary, buttery fingers. But isn't that a sign of a truly great recipe?