As early as August is when the stores and supermarkets here begin stocking up on Christmas-ware and food treats. It’s crazy in September as I see scary chocolate ghosts and pumpkins lined along the shelves with smiling Santas and cute snowmen. I often wonder if people really indulge in Christstollen, lebkuchen and co. when the heat is on in the sweltering months.
I can’t imagine anyone in the mood for a cool refreshing beer and bratwürst fresh off a grill in the sultry warm summer evening, thinking about trick or treat goodies and craving a marzipan stollen all at the same time.
Yes, it does have very much to do with the state of the mind. However, my mind is not really geared for Christmas goodies when I am still trying to hold onto the last of the summer goodness.
I block it out. Seventeen years in Germany and I have become a master in simply ignoring Christmas comestibles and baubles in the middle of August. The chocolate snowmen will have to smile long and hard for me to take notice of them when all I have eyes for are the delicious summer berries and light desserts.
Eventually, it happens though. Usually towards the end of November, I am taken in by the merriness and the Yule tidings. “Last Christmas” plays it’s infinite loop on the radio and the stores are filled with aggressive and unfriendly people, armed with their elbows to jab you in the ribs if you even dare to look at their object of desire.
The overcrowded Weihnachtsmarkt makes it close to impossible to rush into town to do a few quick errands, but boy does it smell good. The air is filled with a heavenly scent of spices and baked delicacies and my mood switches - just like that.
Humming with the infinite loop on the radio, we bring down our winter decoration and begin to spruce up the house. The hand carved wooden Räuchermann takes his place on the bookshelf and dried tangerines and limes are arranged in bowls along with candles and wooden ornaments.
In the kitchen the counter is packed with a variety of dried fruit, nuts, sugar and spice. Together with an over excited 8 year old, we begin to make a list of all the treats we want to bake. The list is long. Presents, special thank-yous, little surprises and big treats for friends and family – there really is nothing better then little packed boxes and bags of baked delicacies.
We’ll spend a whole weekend in a baking frenzy with specks of flour on the cheeks and chocolate trails around the lips. Yes, I could have started baking weeks ago – but then I was busy enjoying Summer and Autumn. But now, as the hills are topped with snow, the cold air tingles with a crispness and the neat little houses sparkle with colorful fairy lights in the twilight, I feel the onset of Christmas.
Each year I make a traditional fruitcake. One that is very dear to my heart as you will read in that particular post. But the experimentalist in me is forever looking for ways to improve a winning recipe. Sometimes the experiments work and sometimes they don’t but one thing is for sure I always come out of the experiments wiser.
I understand in the USA fruitcakes are frowned upon and not very highly regarded. How could a delight of divine spices, fruit and nuts, with a drizzle of booze not hit the right notes?
This is a revamped version of the traditional fruitcake I have been making for the past several years. Over the years I have made small changes to the cake but this year I took it to an entirely new level. Dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries and raisins, speckled with candied orange peel and ginger, and luscious marzipan give the cake a moist and sublime flavor. The topping is a take on the famous Florentine biscuit, in my version I use whole salted macadamia nuts, pecans, sliced almonds and hazelnuts and Maraschino cherries.
Florentine Christmas Fruitcake
Printable version of recipe here
For the cake
280g all-purpose flour
250g butter, room temperature
140g muscovado sugar
6 eggs, lightly beaten
85g ground almonds
2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground all spice
700g mixed dried fruit of choice, I used
- candied orange peel
- candied ginger
140g marzipan, cubed
2-3 tablespoons rum
For the topping
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C. Lightly butter and line the base and sides of a deep round cake form with a loose bottom (22cm) with baking paper.
- In a bowl whisk the sugar, butter, flour, eggs, ground almonds and spices with an electric hand held beater. Whisk the mixture until the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and it is thick and creamy.
- Weigh about 100g of the batter into a smaller bowl and set it aside for the topping.
- In the rest of the batter fold in the fruit and rum using a spatula, then gently stir in the marzipan. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake form, smoothing the top with the spatula. Bake the cake for approx. 1 to 1.5 hours (mine took about 1.25 hours).
- In the meantime, mix all the nuts and Maraschino cherries with the 100g cake batter that was reserved to make the topping. Pour in the treacle and maple syrup and stir until everything is coated well.
- Once the cake has baked for 1-1.5 hours remove from oven and spoon the topping mixture over the top, distributing it evenly. Cover loosely with some aluminum foil and place bake in the over for another 40 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes to brown the nuts. The cake is ready when a wooden skewer inserted in the middle of it comes out clean.
- Cool cake completely in tin, then turn it out and cover tightly with foil. The cake will keep for 1-2 weeks stored in a cool dry place.
A jewel! It’s all I can say about this. I was extremely pleased with the results and baking it was a real breeze. It definitely is a rich and full bodied cake but the perfect treat for a relaxing Sunday afternoon after a long walk in the cold crisp winter air. A warming pot of spiced tea and slices of this cake will put a smile on the faces of your loved ones. The pairing of the crunchy topping and soft, fruity and moist cake is magnificent. The best part is – the cake keeps for a few weeks and it only gets better.
If you are wondering where I got those lovely bamboo and wooden props in my prep photos above let me direct you over to Restaurantware.com. It's a treasure chest for props. I especially love their Bamboo items.
Next week there’s more Christmas baking here on What’s For Lunch, Honey? so stay tuned as I share a variety of delicious cookies.
Hope you all have a grand weekend.
More Christmas treats from WFLH:
|Marzipan Almond Kipferl||Chocolate & Coconut French Yule Log||Scandinavian Gingerbread House - Pepparkakstuga|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2010 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First