Well, at least I know where I went wrong.
It wasn't the recipe, which came from my grandmother, from her mother, and possibly unto the middle ages by the look of this piece of paper.
It did have its challenges.
And its moments of fun...Translation: "Sprinkle extra brandy or sherry over cake while hot - keeps moist. (Also an excuse to have an extra nip!!!)
So the fruit was found and the soak began.
And continued for a day or so...
the cake pan was lined...
and this was my first mistake.
I've never mentioned here before, but I
hate Donna Hay.
I could devote an entire post to how much I hate Donna Hay. How I hate that I fall for her pretty magazine covers and her promising headlines, only to find I've purchase $7.95 worth of ego-driven twaddle.
Judging by what I actually use from a typical Donna Hay magazine, I should be paying about 33 cents. However, based on its value to me as pure food-porn, I think the price is about right.
Cutting a potentially major rant short, I hate Donna Hay especially this Christmas because a) she has a new magazine that advertises 'make ahead' menus that ARE NOT make ahead*, and b) I followed the instructions for double-lining a Christmas cake tin from one of her older magazines instead of going with my own instincts. More on this later.
Where was I up to? Ah, yes, the tin was lined, the stove was heated (and this involved calculus level maths to translate from my Nana's version of combustion stove temperatures), and the batter was made.
Yum. Five eggs, golden syrup, the vanilla that Nana forgot to put in her list of ingredients but included in the method and, well, lots of other stuff.
I saved the glace cherries til last.
And then we baked.
I should mention that by now it was 11.30pm because - well that last post
Nana's recipe strictly forbade leaving the cake in the oven to cool down (dries it out) so I resigned myself to being up another two hours or more until the slow bake was done.
Imagine how pleased I was when, turning and testing after just one hour and 40 minutes, I found the cake was cooked early! Yay! That clean-as-a-whistle-skewer gave me a much needed ticket to bed.
So off I went. Having dutifully left cake out
of oven but in
the tin to cool, and even more dutifully adding the extra nip of sherry while cake was hot, and covering it to keep the Christmas beetles off the top overnight, I went to bed.
First thing next morning, it hit me.
Fucking Donna Hay.
was I going to get the cake OUT of the tin since I had followed her baking paper instructions and cut four separate pieces to line the four sides rather than using at least one long piece to go from one side to the other so I could LIFT THE BLOODY THING OUT?
Now, if any of you have the genius answer to this problem, bearing in mind that tipping the pan upside down was NOT an option because of my beautiful glace cherries: keep it to yourself.
No, really, I.DO.NOT.WANT.TO.KNOW.
I can be peevish like that.
In the end I had to divide and conquer.
The Prof stood by, cautiously making helpful comments like, "Well, it smells great anyway" and "Will you be using those bits that dropped off?"
And indeed, bits were dropping off quite alarmingly.
Despite its delightfully cake-y texture on top, the bottom half was really feeling much, much more like pudding.
Turns out, the skewer lied.
It really should have been two and a half hours after all.
So. Here's my plan.
The pudding-cake is going into the freezer, to emerge on Xmas day as a dessert to be mixed through with fabulous vanilla ice cream. I expect it to be a senSAtion.
The fruit mix I'd kept out to make pudding will now go towards a second attempt at cake.
And I'll be listening to my dear departed Nana this time. That Hay woman can sit on her quaint and perfect Christmas tree and rotate.
*This is an alarming trend in cooking mags this year: has anyone else noticed? Note to all Food Editors - a 'make ahead' menu that involves making a chilli sauce the night before Christmas and doing the rest of the five courses four hours before Christmas lunch is a crime against motherhood. You should all be ashamed