Christmas Countdown – 10 weeks to go

Christmas

It’s 10 weeks to Christmas today! Now I know that statement will probably strike fear into the hearts of many dreading the onslaught on Christmas shopping crowds, bad carols and family get-togethers, but I am one of those slightly annoying people who loves Christmas. I love counting down and preparing for it.

However for the last 6 years I have either been pregnant (our eldest was born on his due date of Christmas Day – late in the day after a loooong labour), studying a language with a toddler, packing up a house to move overseas or living overseas. So it’s the first time in a very long time that I feel like I can really focus on the countdown. This year is even more special because after almost 10 years together, it will be the first time Simon and I have hosted Christmas. So we’ll have my Mum, my sister and her husband, and their two girls all in the Barossa.

So, I thought I would try and post a weekly update on our Christmas plans and hopefully share some recipes and inspiration. A year as an exchange student in Denmark had a big impact on my Christmas celebrations (and on me generally) so you’ll see a real Scandinavian influence. And of course, now we’re in the Barossa, I’m expecting we’ll be exposed to some German traditions – and food.

Christmas growing up was always fun and usually just my family and my grandparents for lunch before we joined friends at their place for dinner. Grandma always did the pudding and from age 16 I have made the fruitcake from the same Women’s Weekly recipe. Apart from soaking it a bit longer (usually a month if I can), adding ginger and being a bit heavier handed on the brandy, it’s pretty much the same recipe.

When I was thinking about this post, I thought back to where this cake had been made over the years. Starting in Wollongong it has also been made in Denmark, Canberra, China, Vietnam and now the Barossa. I think I have made it almost every year since 1990 probably with the exception of the year I cam back from China.

The recipe itself (which I’ll share below) makes one large square cake or two smaller ones. In the past I have usually done only 2 or maybe 3 batches but this year I’m doing 4. As it takes about 3.5 hours to cook, I’ll be looking forward to not spending a whole day cooking. I’m also looking forward to being able to enjoy some cake earlier than Christmas Eve!

So far this is the only part of our Christmas menu that is set, but I’m looking forward to making the most of fabulous Barossa produce. I’m also planning to make some traditional Danish biscuits for the first time in many years and I’m planning some Gingerbread star centrepieces.

I’d love to know what traditions and foods you have. It would be lovely if you could share below.

Rich Fruit Cake Recipe

Cake can be made 2 months ahead

Ingredients ready for my fruit cake
Ingredients ready for my fruit cake

Ingredients:

2 cups (300g) currants

1 ½ cups (250g) sultanas

1½ cups (250g) chopped raisins (although I usually don’t bother to chop)

1/3 cup each chopped glace pineapple, glace ginger, glace apricots (1 cup total)

½ cup chopped glace cherries (I usually buy the mixed bag)

½ cup mixed peel

1 cup (150g) brazil nuts (chopped)

¾ cup brandy or apple juice

250 g butter

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

1 2/3 cups (410g) dark brown sugar, firmly packed

5 eggs

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

¼ cup orange juice

2 tablespoons strawberry jam

2 ½ cups plain flower

1 teaspoon each – ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground ginger

¼ cup brandy or apple juice, extra.

I usually soak the fruit for about a month but you can soak overnight and I usually add the nuts a couple of days before I’m going to cook the cakes

Four batches of fruit ready to soak in brandy for a month
Four batches of fruit ready to soak in brandy for a month

On the day of cooking:

Set oven to slow (150 Celsius but check your oven, fan forced may need to be cooler – so keep an eye on your oven the first time you make these).

Grease a deep 20cm square cake pan, line base and sides with 3 layers of brown or greaseproof paper, bringing paper about 5cm above top edges of pan.

Cream butter, vanilla essence and sugar in a bowl with electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, beating only until combined between each addition.

Stir in rind, juice and jam, and then stir in sifted dry ingredients in 2 batches.

Stir in fruit mixture; mix well.

Spread mixture evenly into pared pan and bake in a slow oven for 3.5 hours or until cooked when tested.

Brush top evenly with extra brandy, cover with foil, let cool in the pan overnight.

I have also made this as two smaller square cakes (15cm) which take about 3 hours each.

Suitable to freeze

Not suitable to microwave.

Recipe from: The Australian Women’s Weekly, December 1990

Published by

angepickett

I started this blog almost 3 years ago when we first arrived in the Barossa Valley. I've always wanted to write and I wanted to share my experience of my career change, our move to this beautiful wine region and discovering my next adventure. After 15 years as a public servant working in Canberra, Beijing, China and Hanoi, Vietnam, I decided it was time for a career change and more importantly, a lifestyle change. In 2014, we left Hanoi and headed to the Barossa Valley in South Australia with a dream of a more fulfilling lifestyle in one of Australia's premier food and wine regions. My husband and I both work in the wine industry - where my job could be described as anything but making the wine. In 2017, I decided to wind-up the consulting business I established in 2015 and focus on learning as much as I could about the wine industry and writing - both on this blog and a memoir of our time in Vietnam. This blog is an opportunity for me to share my writing - about everything from motherhood, to career change, fitness, travel and our vine-change/career change experience.

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