Wednesday 18 November 2015

A Salon Guest: Christmas Cake!

It's a pleasure to welcome Sasha Cottman to the salon equipped with a suitably festive recipe for Christmas cake!


Christmas Cake

The history of Christmas cake is a muddled one. It is thought that its origins lay in the Christmas pudding (plum pudding) and the Twelfth Night cake. The (steamed) pudding dates back to the sixteenth century, while the (baked) cake came a little later as people gradually put ovens in their 

The twelfth night cake was baked and eaten on the twelfth day of Christmas (the epiphany). As Christmas day became more popular during the Victorian period, the cake became linked with the day and so was eaten on the 25th of December. Victorian bakers began to make marzipan mix and cover the cakes with festive decorations. Households have been divided ever since as to whether marzipan is good to eat or horrible.

Christmas cake is still very popular in England and the Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In my home (my dad was from the north of England) it is traditional to eat it with a strong, hard cheese. The sharp cheese is a great partner to the sweetness of the cake.

Christmas Cake.

This recipe is for an easy Christmas cake. I have several recipes with an ingredient list as long as your arm, but this recipe allows you to make the cake for a reasonable price and in the one day.


2 cups (360g) raisins
1 ½ cups (270g) sultanas
1 ½ cups (270g) currants.
½ cup (90g) mixed peel
½ cup (90g) glace cherries
¼ cup (60ml) orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon lemon essence
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 ½ cups (225g) plain flour (all purpose)
2/3 cup (100g) self-raising (self-rising) flour
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 2/3 cup (250g) brown sugar
1 cup (250g) butter
½ cup (125ml) milk
4 eggs well beaten

I told you it was a long list, my rich recipe has over 20 ingredients. If you want to use packaged mixed fruit use 1kg instead of the dried fruit, peel and cherries.

Mix orange juice and essences and pour them over the fruit in a mixing bowl.
Leave for 2 hours.
Line a 25cm square baking tin with baking paper.
Sift the dry ingredients together. Melt butter, sugar and milk together.
Let this mix cool and then pour over the fruit. Add the flour and spices and mix well.
Finally add the beaten eggs and mix well.
Bake in a 150C/302F oven for 3 hours.

I have never bothered to decorate my Christmas cake as I usually have helpers attempting to eat the cake as it comes out of the oven.

Merry Christmas!

About the Author

Sasha Cottman’s debut novel was published in 2013. Letter from a Rake, was a Romantic Book of the Year finalist in 2014 and won the Book Junkies Choice Award in 2014.

Her books are centred on the theme of love, honour and family. Her current book series, The Duke of Strathmore, covers the story of the love lives of a group of siblings and their cousins.

Before accidently enrolling in a course for romance writers a number of years ago, she had always had a love of history. While her writing career may appear at odds with her professional career as a finance executive, it means she can spot a poorly written company board report at twenty feet.

A self-confessed ‘hopeless’ cook, she writes a blog, In the Regency Kitchen, where she recreates recipes from the Regency/Georgian era. Her family have so far managed to survive being the test subjects of her culinary efforts. 

The little time she has left during the week and weekends is spent trying to beat her husband at Fitbit challenges and trying to find where the pair to that sock really went.

Sasha is published by Destiny Romance a digital imprint of Penguin Random House.

The Duke's Daughter

When handsome army officer Avery Fox unexpectedly inherits a fortune, he instantly becomes one of the season's most eligible bachelors. More accustomed to the battlefield, he has no patience with the naive debutantes who fill the ballrooms of London.

Honest and impetuous Lady Lucy Radley is a breath of fresh air, guiding him through the season and helping him to avoid any traps. So when Avery is left with little option but to marry Lucy, he can't help but feel he's been manipulated. Nor can he shake the feeling that a duke's daughter should be out of his reach.

From the wildly beautiful Scottish Highlands to the elegant soirees of Paris, Avery and Lucy go on a journey that is full of surprises for them both.  But will their feelings for each other be strong enough to overcome the circumstances of their marriage and survive the ghosts of Avery's past?

The Duke’s Daughter is available as an ebook at the following e-retailers.

Letter from a Rake
An Unsuitable Match
The Duke's Daughter

Chapter One

By every measure of her own behaviour, Lady Lucy Radley knew this was the worst.
'You reckless fool,' she muttered under her breath as she headed back inside and into the grand ballroom.
The room was a crush of London's social elite. Every few steps she had to stop and make small talk with friends or acquaintances. A comment here and there about someone's gown or promising a social call made for slow going.
 Finally she spied her cousin, Eve. She fixed a smile to her face as Eve approached.
'Where have you been, Lucy? I've been searching everywhere for you.'
'I was just outside admiring the flowers on the terrace.'
Eve frowned, but the lie held.
Another night, another ball in one of London's high-society homes. In one respect Lucy would be happy when the London social season ended in a few weeks; then she would be free to travel to her family home in Scotland and go tramping across the valleys and mountain paths, the chill wind ruffling her hair.
She puffed out her cheeks. With the impending close of the season came an overwhelming sense of failure. Her two older brothers, David and Alex, had taken wives. Perfect, love-filled unions with delightful girls, each of whom Lucy was happy to now call sister.
Her newest sister-in-law, Earl Langham's daughter Clarice, was already in a delicate condition, and Lucy suspected it was only a matter of time before her brother Alex and his wife Millie shared some good news.
For herself, this season had been an unmitigated disaster on the husband-hunting front. The pickings were slim at best. Having refused both an earl and a viscount the previous season, she suspected other suitable gentlemen now viewed her as too fussy. No gentleman worth his boots wanted a difficult wife. Only the usual group of fortune-hunters, intent on getting their hands on her substantial dowry, were lining up at this stage of the season to ask her to dance. Maintaining her pride as the daughter of a duke, she refused them all.
Somewhere in the collective gentry of England there must be a man worthy of her love. She just had to find him.
What a mess.
'You are keeping something from me,' Eve said, poking a finger gently into Lucy's arm.
Lucy shook her head. 'It's nothing. I suspect I am suffering from a touch of ennui. These balls all begin to look the same after a while. All the same people, sharing the same gossip.'
'Oh dear, and I thought I was having a bad day,' Eve replied.
'Sorry, I was being selfish. You are the one who needs a friend to cheer her up,' Lucy replied. She kissed her cousin gently on the cheek.
Eve's brother William had left London earlier that day to return to his home in Paris, and she knew her cousin was taking his departure hard.
'Yes, well, I knew I could sit at home and cry, or I could put on a happy face and try to find something to smile about,' Eve replied.
Eve's father had tried without success to convince his son to return permanently to England. With the war now over and Napoleon toppled from power, everyone expected William Saunders to come home immediately, but it had taken two years for him to make the journey back to London.
'Perhaps once he gets back to France and starts to miss us all again, he shall have a change of heart,' Lucy said.
'One can only hope. Now, let's go and find a nice quiet spot and you can tell me what you were really doing out in the garden. Charles Ashton came in the door not a minute before you, and he had a face like thunder. As I happened to see the two of you head out into the garden at the same time a little while ago, I doubt Charles' foul temper was because he found the flowers not to his liking,' Eve replied.

It was late when Lucy and her parents finally returned home to Strathmore House. The Duke and Duchess of Strathmore's family home was one of the largest houses in the elegant West End of London. It was close to the peaceful greenery of Hyde Park, and Lucy couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
As they came through the grand entrance to Strathmore House she was greeted by the sight of her eldest brother David seated on a low couch outside their father's study. He was clad in a heavy black greatcoat and his hat was in his hand.
'Hello, David; bit late for a visit this evening. I hope nothing is wrong,' said Lord Strathmore.
'Clarice?' asked Lady Caroline.
'She's fine, sleeping soundly at home,' he replied.
Lucy sensed the pride and love for his wife in her brother's voice. He had found his true soulmate in Lord Langham's daughter.
David stood and came over. When he reached them, he greeted his mother and sister with a kiss. His dark hair was a stark contrast to both Lady Caroline's and Lucy's fair complexions.
He turned to his father. 'Lord Langham's missing heir has been found, and the news is grave. My father-in-law asked that I come and inform you before it becomes public knowledge. A rather horrid business, by all accounts.'
'I see. Ladies, would you please excuse us? This demands my immediate attention,' Lord Strathmore said.
As Lucy and Lady Caroline headed up the grand staircase, he and David retired to his study. As soon as the door was closed behind them, David shared the news.
'The remains of Thaxter Fox were retrieved from the River Fleet a few hours ago. His brother Avery, whom you met at my wedding ball a few weeks ago, has formally identified the body. Lord Langham is currently making funeral arrangements,' David said.
His father shook his head. It was not an unexpected outcome of the search for the missing Thaxter Fox.
He wandered over to a small table and poured two glasses of whisky. He handed one to David.
'Well, that makes for a new and interesting development. I don't expect Avery Fox had ever entertained the notion before today that he would one day be Earl Langham,' Lord Strathmore replied, before downing his drink.
'Perhaps, but he had to know the likelihood of finding his brother in one piece was slim at best. From our enquiries, it was obvious Thaxter had a great many enemies,' David replied.
'Including you,' said the duke.
David looked down at his gold wedding ring. It still bore the newlywed gleam, which made him smile.
'He and I had come to a certain understanding. If he stayed away from Langham House and Clarice, I would not flay the skin off his back. No, someone else decided to make Thaxter pay for his evil ways.'
The Langham and Radley families held little affection for the recently deceased heir to the Langham title. After Thaxter had made an attempt to seize Clarice's dowry through a forced marriage, both families had severed all ties. Thaxter had disappeared not long after.
David would do everything in his power to protect Clarice. With a baby on the way, he was fully prepared to stare down the rest of the town if it meant keeping his wife safe. As the illegitimate, but acknowledged, son of the duke, David had overcome many of society's prejudices in order to successfully woo and wed Lord Langham's only daughter.
'Unkind as it sounds, I doubt many at Langham House will be mourning the demise of the eldest Mr Fox,' his father replied.

This post copyright © Sasha Cottman, 2015.


Sarah said...

Wensleydale is the best cheese for eating with Christmas cake, with Cheshire second choice...both go nicely with apple pie too.

Sasha Cottman said...

Hi Sarah, Wensleydale is magnificent, I love it with anything.

Sarah said...

grand way to use up leftovers too, double-decker sandwich of turkey or goose and wensleydale with cranberry sauce and a few coriander leaves. Or Wensleydale and pickled onion sandwich, with or without sausage.
I wish I wasn't trying to lose weight... 20lb only since March because cheese and pickled onion sandwiches call to me temptingly