Xmas-Screenshot3 Yotam and Helen Goh – Yotam’s long-term collaborator on all things sweet – discuss some of the secrets behind our legendary Christmas cake

Q. What are the three top words people use when they first eat the Ottolenghi  Christmas cake?
Helen: Fruity, boozy and rich.
Yotam: And not overly sweet, which Christmas cakes can tend to be.

Q. What do we do to get this level of boozy richness into the cake? Can you briefly talk us through the process and give a sense of the time frame? When does the bakery start making it?
Helen: We begin the process just after the summer holidays, in early September, when the fruit and alcohol are ordered. Everything is measured and cut up and then left to macerate in large tubs which are kept in a cool dark place to plump up. After a few weeks, the first batch of cakes are made. They are cooked for a long time at a low temperature and then get doused with more alcohol as they come out of the oven. They are then wrapped and left to mature for several weeks, after which a layer of marzipan balls are placed on top.
Yotam: We like our cakes to have a time-honoured look so they then get a little bit of blow torch before they are carefully wrapped in cellophane and sent out to the shops for the next set of elves to get working their magic on them.

Q. What is the booze in the cake?
Yotam: Brandy and rum. Christmas cake is basically an excuse to see how much alcohol you can get fruit to absorb. Always a good thing in my book.

Q. Which fruit?
Helen: So many you could make a Christmas day game over guessing the ingredients in the cake! People will guess the sultanas, raisins, date and mixed peel but then there are a host of other secret Santa fruity ingredients in there: dried pineapple, dried apricots, prunes, glace cherries, fresh orange and lemon zest, orange marmalade.
Yotam: Off the fruit theme, extra brownie points can be given for black treacle, mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Q. Why are they sold in little 500g packs? Are they not too big for one portion, on one hand, and too small to share on the other? Or is each cake more than enough for people to have a bite of, as it’s so rich? Does it get sliced or quartered?!
Helen: The size of the cakes is one of our favourite things about it. So often, Christmas cakes have one or two slices taken out of them and the remainder sits there for days, making us feel slightly guilty about the gluttony that encouraged us to think we could eat all of it in the first place. With our cakes, there is the perfect amount for a good few people to share – you only need a few mouthfuls with coffee or tea (or more brandy or rum) – without a crumb going to waste.
Yotam: Their size also makes them super lovely gifts to take to people at Christmas or to slip into a stocking.

Q. Is there room on the table for a marzipan and icing-free Christmas cake or do you think it should it always, by definition, get its marzipan-icing wrapping?
Yotam: I always like the little layer of marzipan and icing on top of the cake. It makes it look like the snow has come and laid its blanket and also, secretly, gives a little soft base for any novelty Christmas figures that might be finding their way onto the Christmas table to position themselves.
Helen: It also gives a little something for kids to tear off and eat, if they are not going for the rum-soaked fruit.

Q. What’s the best thing to drink alongside Christmas cake. Tea, coffee, sweet wine, bubbles?
Helen: Anything goes, really. Our cake is not overly sweet so it works just as well with sweet bubbles or wine as it does with tea and coffee.

Q. Finally, is there room on the festive table for Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, a chocolate log, mince pies and a trifle or should we all be a bit more sensible and choose just one or two?
Yotam: Christmas is not the time to be sensible. A little bit of everything, when it comes to pudding, I reckon. Hence the joy of our perfectly-sized Christmas cakes which means you can experience the joy of bounty without actually having to consume a full-sized portion of each and every option


The Ottolenghi Christmas cake is available to purchase online, or in-store at our Notting Hill, Belgravia, Islington or Spitalfields delis.
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