This is a simple, small loaf cake, made by the rubbing-in method, so you don't even have to think far enough ahead to allow time for your butter to soften. It can be in the oven within a few minutes of gathering the ingredients together. You can add any combination of dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, spices and other flavourings to the basic cake recipe; I chose some of my seasonal favourites - dried figs, crystallised ginger and dark chocolate.
This recipe makes a fairly robust cake, but as long as the batter isn't too loose, it will support quite chunky pieces of fruit and nuts. This means that it's possibly to taste all the individual additions. The combination of figs, ginger and chocolate worked really well together, although a touch of spice and orange zest would have made it even more festive.
200g SR flour
100g butter or hard baking fat (such as Stork)
80g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
milk to mix
1 tablespoon demerara sugar (optional)
* I used 50g each of dried figs, crystallised ginger and 70% chocolate, all chopped into similar sized pieces
Preheat the oven to 175C and line a small (1lb) loaf tin with baking parchment or use a loaf-tin liner.
Put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter, as if making pastry, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Mix in the sugar.
Add the egg, vanilla extract and enough milk to give a fairly soft batter - you'll need at least 5 tablespoons. Just stir the batter briskly - don't beat it!
Fold in your chosen 'add-ins'.
Transfer the batter to the baking tin, level the mixture and sprinkle with the demerara sugar, if using.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a test probe comes out cleanly.
Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.