“(…) even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or event that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. (…) or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress” A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
I discovered the love for Christmas late, it is to say during my twenties. Everything started with a special gift coming from my best friend, who is really keen on this festivity: “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.
I already knew the story, we have played this carol at school during “le medie” (Italian secondary school), but that book was different. Before wrapping it, she delicately underlined with a pencil the sentences she liked most, and she wrote tens and tens of margin notes, something serious, sometimes funny notes.
One of the latter, was right in the quote above, where she specified her disgust for candied fruits. Till then, I wasn’t a big fan either, and I didn’t dare to eat panettone, if hadn’t before removed every single piece of candied fruits.
Now I really like quality candied fruits (especially into panettone), but in my Christmas memories there will be always be the image of big slices is this gorgeous treat, patiently “cleaned” and combined with the best mascarpone cream my mother still prepares every year for Christmas.
HeyFoo, the new marketplace for vintage home decor, asked me to prepare this simple cake – a recipe noted by an unknown lady, maybe in the ’20s, on an old piece of paper, treasured by Crazy Art – Antiquariato e follie (photo above) – and create my Christmas flavour. So, I decided to enrich this cake with sultanas and lots of aromas, such as vanilla beans, lemon and orange zests, so that it recalls the flavour of panettone (without candied fruits, for the pleasure of my dear friend). And I also prepared the traditional mascarpone and Brandy cream, that my mum always makes.
[Tissue, small plate, cup and fork by HeyFoo]
CHRISTMAS CAKE, WITH MASCARPONE AND BRANDY CREAM
for a tin of 18 cm in diameter; for a tin of 24-26 cm, just double the quantity of ingredients
100 g soft butter
90 g sugar
150 g flour
6o g raisins (you could put more, if you wish)
3 tablespoons of Grand Marnier
zests of half an orange
zests of half a lemon
half vanilla bean
20 ml of orange juice
for the mascarpone cream:
200 g mascarpone cheese
2-3 tablespoons of sugar
6 tablespoons of Brandy
For the cake.
1.Soak raisins in lukewarm water with one tablespoon of Grand Marnier for ten minutes.
2.Scrape out the inside of half a vanilla bean and put them into a bowl with the soft butter and sugar. Stir well until you get a smooth cream.
3.Add one egg at a time, mixing well before adding the new one. Add the flour, the two remaining tablespoons of Grand Marnier, the orange juice and mix well.
4.Drain the raisins, and squeeze out the extra liquid. Add them to the batter, together with the lemon and orange zests, and a pinch of salt.
5.Bake at 180°C for about 30-35 minutes (for a cake of 18 cm in diameter).
For the mascarpone cream.
6. Place the mascarpone cheese in a bowl, and with a spoon whisk it well together with sugar and Brandy, added one tablespoon at a time. Taste it and eventually add more sugar and Brandy.
This post is also available in: Italian