If your family and friends are anything like mine I’m sure you’ll find that Christmas cake tends to divide opinion. For some it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it whereas others wouldn’t touch it with a tinsel clad barge pole. The lack of takers means that often years will go by without me making a homemade one, however this saddens me, as there’s nothing more delicious than the smell created from baking your own.
The windows begin to steam up and the kitchen is filled with the aroma of melted butter, brown sugar and festive spices – heaven on earth! Having said that I do hate waste and the thought of a lovingly made Christmas cake being discarded with only a few paltry slices missing will often mean the dried fruit stays firmly put on the kitchen shelf.
This year, a particularly wet and miserable Wednesday, left me longing to bake something festive to warm the kitchen (and my spirits) up. I had all the ingredients I needed without having to leave the house in the rain for a traditional fruitcake. However a quick wrestle with my very haphazardly stacked baking tin cupboard threatened to cause a landslide of disastrous proportions. Not feeling up to reorganising the whole cupboard and with the only tin easily accessible to me a muffin tray I decided to make individual fruitcakes!
Not only would this mini size solve the problem of waste it meant I could hastily shut the cupboard door and forget about the baking tin tsunami that threatened to flood my kitchen floor – ignorance is bliss, as they say. Instead of the traditional royal icing and marzipan decoration I decided to opt for a boozy rum and almond buttercream instead. You could take the traditional route but I think that the buttercream gives these diddy cakes a modern twist and actually would probably mean that they appeal to a much wider audience!
It’s nice to vary from tradition while still keeping the classic flavours we love about this time of year. So why not beat the winter blues and enjoy some mindful baking on a gloomy day by having a go at these cakes! Although they won’t last until Christmas they can be frozen so pop half the batch in the freezer and then just defrost at room temperature to serve!
Mini Christmas Cakes with Spiced Rum & Almond Buttercream
FOR THE CAKES
500g mixed dried fruit and peel, this is a great way to use up those opened packets in your baking cupboard. Use anything you have such as currants, raisins, sultanas, cranberries, cherries, apricots, dates, figs, prunes (chop larger fruit)
zest and juice 1 orange
75ml Spiced Rum OR use your favourite festive tiple (e.g. Brandy, sherry, whisky, bourbon, amaretto) plus extra for feeding
125g butter, chopped
100g light soft brown sugar
90g self-raising flour
50g each ground and flaked almonds (or use 100g of one kind)
1 tsp each mixed spice and cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp almond extract
500g icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp spiced rum (or your favourite festive tipple)
250g soft butter
silver balls, edible glitter and festive ribbon (optional)
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Put the dried fruit, orange zest and juice, rum, butter and sugar into a medium or large on a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for at least 40 minutes.
Grease 12 holes of a muffin tin well and line the bases with baking parchment. Tip the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and add the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the cups of the tin (an ice cream scoop works well for this) and bake on a low shelf for about 25 minutes or until well risen, golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the tin for 2-3 minutes then if icing straight away allow the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack or,
If maturing the cakes leave in the tins then poke holes on the surface of the cakes with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp (in total for all the cakes) of your chosen alcohol. Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tin. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp alcohol every fortnight, until you ice them, covering the whole tray over with a layer of baking parchment and foil in between feeding.
Make the buttercream; mash the butter and the icing sugar together in a large bowl; this will stop your kitchen being sprayed with a cloud of icing sugar. Once mashed beat with electric mixers until pale and fluffy. Add the rum and almond extract and beat for about 45 seconds more. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a round tip nozzle. Pipe a swirl of icing onto each cake then flatten down the top peak with the back of a spoon.
Decorate with your choice of decorations, I used silver balls and edible glitter with snowflake ribbons.