Christmas (fruit) cakes are quite different to any other cake.  Sponge cakes are baked quickly and are at their best when eaten promptly, whereas fruit cakes are baked very slowly and then left to mature and the flavours to develop over many weeks. The need to bake fruit cakes on a low heat for a long time is because they are full of fruit and very dense.  This means the cake is much more likely to dry out on the outside, and a dry cake is as bad as a soggy bottom! However, there are some secrets that ensure fruit cakes are evenly cooked and delicious! No. 1   Weigh all the ingredients in your recipe carefully. Baking is a science and guessing ingredient weights will often lead to a disappointing cake. No. 2    Soak the dried fruit for at least 24 hours in fruit juice or brandy (or both), as per your recipe. This allows the fruit to absorb the liquid and will stay nice and juicy after baking. No. 3    Ensure the soaked fruit is dry before adding to the batter. Very wet fruit will usually sink to the bottom of the cake during baking. No. 4    Place your baking tin on a piece of cardboard or several sheets of newspaper in the oven to avoid burning the bottom of the cake. No. 5    Wrap several sheets of newspaper or cardboard around the baking tin and secure with string. This will avoid the cake from burning around the outside.  Or invest in PME baking belts – these are simply brilliant as they help with even heat distribution! No. 6    Double line your baking tin, ensuring the lining paper stands 2-3” above the rim of the baking tin. Then take 2 squares of greaseproof paper or baking parchment and cut a small hole in the middle (about 1 inch) and place on top the lining paper (not on top of the mixture).  This protects the top of the cake from burning. No. 7    Add a roasting tin filled with water to the bottom of your oven, which ensures the cake cooks in a nice moist atmosphere No. 8    After baking, use a skewer to make holes on the top of your cake and then brush brandy (or favoured alcohol or fruit juice) over the cake – the heat within the cake will absorb the liquid. No. 9    Wrap your cake in 2 layers of greaseproof paper and 1 layer of foil, and store upsidedown in a cool place. No. 10   Keep brushing your cake with brandy (or your favoured alcohol or fruit juice) every couple of weeks, ideally for 2-3 months, before decorating. See my next blog post 10 secrets to covering the perfect Christmas cake.

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