“Legally” it’s Christmas until Twelfth Night here in France. To stay in the holiday spirit just a bit longer, let’s visit the Langton’s at Mas d’Augustine for a chambre d’hôte holiday. We’ll take a glimpse of holiday decorations and parties and best of all, Jane will share her secrets on how to create the perfect traditional Christmas cake.
Christmas Time at the Mas
Jane and Gary are ready for guests
The chambre d’hôte is decked out for the holiday party
The aperos are prepared and ready to be served
Time for the party to arrive!
Traditional Christmas Cake
“Whilst I absolutely love living in France, when it comes to Christmas there are a few things that I really miss and one of them is a traditional Christmas cake. Gary does not like Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or mince pies and so in previous years I have made a yule tide chocolate log or, as they are called in France, a Bouche de Noel. This year, however, I decided to make myself a proper English Christmas cake and I have a very quick and easy recipe. I have used this recipe for many years, whether making a Christmas cake or Wedding cake, and it always turns out rich and moist (although it might be something to do with the extra brandy I pour over the base!).”
300g Glace cherries, rinsed, quartered and dried
75g Candied peel
4 tbls Brandy
300g Plain flour
1 tsp Mixed spice
½ tsp Grated nutmeg
300g Soft unsalted butter
300g Soft dark sugar
1 tbls Black treacle
Place all the fruit and candied peel into a bowl and pour over the brandy, leave overnight in the fridge to soak.
The next day line the sides and bottom of a 20 – 23 cm tin with greaseproof paper and pre-heat your oven to 140C or, for a fan assisted oven, 120C.
Place all the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, starting slowly with an electric whisk, beat until the mixture is thoroughly blended.
Stir in the brandy soaked fruit, ensuring the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the cake mixture.
Tip the mixture into your prepared tin and cover the top with greaseproof paper.
Bake in the oven for 4.5 – 5 hours, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
Remove the cake from the tin and turn it upside down, using the skewer make random holes in the cake and pour over your additional brandy (about 2 tbls).
At this stage, if you are efficient and have made your cake in plenty of time (ideally 3 months before you want to eat it), you can keep adding brandy (about 1 – 2 tbls) each month to enrich the cake. Make sure it is well wrapped up and stored in an air tight container.
The next stage is the marzipan and you can make your own or buy it and, I must confess, I buy mine. The French love marzipan and so I can buy excellent quality marzipan in our local stores. For some reason, rather than being golden or white as it is in England, it always comes with a pink, white and green stripe. But it tastes delicious and these colours will not show under the icing.
Roll out your marzipan to the right size. Heat a little apricot jam in a saucepan and brush this on the top and sides of the cake – this will keep the marzipan in place. Make sure you cover your cake completely and allow the marzipan to dry out for at least 2 days before you attempt the final icing and decoration.
I decorated mine with a plain white fondant icing and golden sugar granules. I made the holly leaves, red ribbon and twisted rope from coloured sugar paste and carefully frosted everything with edible glitter.
“I confess, I did not think about making my cake 3 months in advance, but probably put it together over about 10 days – but It still tastes great.”
Happy Holiday to All from Mas d’ Augustine
See you in the New Year!
Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes, La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com