Probably not Icelandic in origin, but we have certainly made it our own. Although we call it Christmas Cake, we actually enjoy it all through the year. My mother usually bakes up a big batch of these cakes in one go. They freeze well, and are always popular with guests.
This versatile recipe is also good for making tea buns, and, with minor changes, Marble Cake, Lemon Cake, Sand Cake, Fruitcake and Spice Cake. Christmas cake is traditionally made with raisins, but as neither I or my mother like raisins in cakes, we usually substitute them with chocolate chips.
150 g margarine, soft
150 g sugar
250 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
150 ml milk
100 ml raisins or chocolate chips or 50/50 of both (optional)
1/2 tsp lemon, cardamom or vanilla essence
Margarine, milk and eggs should all be at room temperature.
Beat together sugar and margarine until it takes on a pale, almost white, colour. Add the egg and continue beating until light and fluffy looking. Add flavouring essence and mix well. Sift together flour and baking powder and add, small portions at a time, alternating with small doses of milk. Mix well in-between. Stir as little as possible after all the flour has been added, as over-stirring will make the cake dry and tough. Fold in the raisins/choc-chips (if using), by hand. Dust them lightly with flour before mixing – it will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the bowl.
To make Christmas cake:
Pour into a loaf pan, filling it 2/3 to the top. Bake at 175-200 C, on the lowest rack in the oven. Use more heat under the cake than on top. Baking time is approx. 45-60 minutes. The cake is ready when it shrinks from the edges of the pan, but test with a pin just in case. It should be well and evenly browned on all sides, with a peak down the middle. Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. Cool on a rack – if you can resist eating it while it is still warm!
To make Marble cake:
Use vanilla essence for flavouring. When the dough is fully mixed, divide in half and add melted chocolate (65 g) or sifted dark cocoa (2 tbs + 1 tbs sugar) to one half. The marbling is done by layering the dark and white dough. The amount of marbling depends on how many layers you use. Pour the dough in the baking tin in layers, beginning and ending with white dough. Drag a knife or spoon down the middle of the dough to marbleize. Bake as instructed.
To make Tea buns:
Drop by the teaspoonful on a baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven until golden in colour.
To make Lemon Cake:
Use lemon juice (1 1/2 – 2 tsp) or lemon essence (1 tsp) and grated lemon peel (from 1/2 a lemon) to flavor the cake. Spread with lemon flavored icing if desired.
This lovely recipe and it’s variations comes from the book Nýja Matreiðslubókin by Halldóra Eggertsdóttir and Sólveig Benediktsdóttir.