On my adventures in supermarket-land, I’ve noticed that many of them are selling kits for making the traditional Christmas cake. Now, on the one hand, I’m happy that they might encourage festive cake virgins to give the stodgy fruit slabs a try, which has got to be a good thing. One the other hand, the pointless packaging (individual sachets of spices? Really?) immediately gets my back up and leaves me wondering: is it really that hard to weigh out a few ingredients? It seems like commercialised “convenience” to me. It's been quite the cookery conundrum for me.
The kits themselves aren’t cheap – convenience, after all, costs – and aren’t a complete cake package. Each “kit” contains pre-weighed flour, sugar, almonds and spices as well as ready-soaked dried fruit .You’ll need to add butter and eggs which come at an additional cost. The kit itself will set you back anywhere between £7.50 - £15 depending on if you get one when its reduced. Now that the furious run-up to the big day has begun in earnest, they are discounting them left, right and centre. Assuming that you use free range eggs, you’ll need to fork out at least an additional £3. With your average home baked cake coming in around the £7.50 mark, you’d do better to make your own from scratch if you’re watching the pre-Christmas pennies.
The only thing that these kits seem to offer is convenience in the form is pre-weighed and pre-soaked ingredients as well as a tried-and-tested recipe. I suppose it could be helpful if you really don’t know where to start and probably scores highly in the supermarket impulse buy league tables. For a few of my friends, 2011 has been the year of the first Christmas cake. Instead of turning to the supermarkets for assistance, they got together and made a night of it. All newbies together; no pressure to impress, just cake baking at its best.
Let’s face it; we all know how to weigh out ingredients and there’s nothing out of the ordinary in a Christmas cake. The most difficult part is remembering to soak the fruit before you make the cake but this could be done overnight if you’re really running short of time. As far as tried-and-tested recipes, you have the internet at your fingertips! The world is your cakey (Noro-free) oyster. Plus, I’m sure there’s someone – whether it’s a parent, grandparent, friend or kindly colleague – who would lend you their trusty recipe.
So please don’t be fooled into getting one of these kits. Sure it’s probably better than buying one readymade but making one from scratch – which, in this case, basically involved getting the scales out – isn’t much harder.
Complete first-timer? Not sure where to start? The first thing you need to do is soak your fruit!