I spent time flat-hunting, paying deposits, then getting cold feet and re-flat-hunting and re-depositing my savings. Then time moving, tidying, furnishing. Learning how to live somewhere new and forming new routines. Setting 6:15 alarms.
Fixing the heating took longer than expected. Some days I still wear gloves indoors.
I spent time working, learning, holidaying, and starting. I still spend every day talking about food.
I spent, and spend, a lot of my time commuting. I made a new rule that if I get home later than 8pm in the evening, I am permitted to microwave my meals. I microwave a lot.
I stopped using my camera and natural sunlight doesn't illuminate as much of my day as I'd like.
Still, somewhere amongst all the doing and then not-doing, the oscillating arc between stressed panic and acute boredom (with some very good times in between), I remembered to make a Christmas cake on time.
On time means sometime in late September. There's probably an exact day but I just chose a rainy Sunday.
I roughly followed this recipe with some fruity revisions. Take a look:
In here there's 1kg of dried fruit and nuts. A glistening bowl of cherry brandy-soaked sultanas to the far left, with some snipped up dates just below. Ground almonds gave the cake batter a subtle nuttiness, which was, of course, reiterated in the chopped hazelnuts. Sunny apricots and glace cherries gave the cake some brightness, with the tartness of dried cranberries and heat of (a lot of!) crystallised ginger to follow.
You know the only thing I dislike more than dark crockery? Square crockery.
This cake begins with butter and two types of sugar. I learned the hard way not to take photographs inside green mixing bowls.
The best part was my decision not to use brandy. There's the aforementioned cherry brandy to plump up the sultanas, but aside from that I relied on whisky to keep things ripe. Glenmorangie, kindly donated, provided some caramel flavours and alcoholic aromas.
I became really concerned at one point by how sodden it was, but that's okay. It's good, actually. Keep drinking, cake! (Keep drinking, Rebecca)
In my laziness I bought ready-made marzipan, which meant I just had to roll it out and let it curve its away around the contours of the cake, sticking to the sides slathered with apricot jam. A superthin marzipan layer covered the cake; a controversial choice made for tradition's sake but without insulting modernity's palette.
And the next evening, a snowstorm of icing.
This is the only photo I have. My Christmas Cake wasn't intended for this space and was never given the glory of a cake stand, as evidenced by its late, unseasonal delivery to you and its iPhone presentation.
I just made it to share it and eat it.
I cut the cake into sections, delivering a third to the Gilberts and smuggling a third back home for the holidays. The final third was intended for any London-based Christmas cake enthusiasts but, funnily enough, the majority of this last chunk is stored in a sad little tupperware in my filing cabinet at work. Covert bites are going to make January tolerable.
This cake is very good and I recommend it highly. If you're not a fan of fruit cake, I'm not a fan of you.
P.S. - A reminder: recipe here! Thanks, Nigel.