Cakes

 A WONDERFUL RICH FRUIT CAKE

If I can, my Christmas cakes are made by the end of November, giving them lots of time to mature and to feed them with a little brandy. Then, as long as everything goes to plan and those never ending lists are completed, I will marzipan and ice them, then decorate with holly leaves and berries the week before Christmas. But things don’t always work that way and on many a Christmas Eve the cake has ended up with a quick & easy snow effect of royal icing and topped with the faithful Father Christmas I have had since we were married!

There are no hard and fast rules; your Christmas cake can be made with your favourite dried fruits, add nuts to the recipe if you like nuts. Change the proportions of the various fruits, but they total quantity must be about the same as the recipe. The cake mix must not vary as it’s the glue that keeps the cake together as it bakes and set. You must have a deep 8” cake tin for this recipe. If you don’t use a 9” one, the cake won’t be as deep, but it won’t erupt over the edge of the tin!! You can wrap the outside of the tin with brown paper tied with string, but if you have a saucepan or casserole slightly deeper and wider than your cake tin, cook your cake in this and it will equally protect the edges.

INGREDIENTS

200g dark glace cherries

280g Sultanas

280g Raisins –Lexia or muscatel

100g currants

170g mixed peel

40g dried pineapple and papaya

110g glace ginger peel chopped

4 x tsp good marmalade

3 tbsp black treacle

Zest of one unwaxed lemon finely grated

Zest of one orange finely grated

1 heaped tsp mixed spice

 6 x tbsp brandy plus more to feed the cake

 250g butter

180g self rising flour

1 tsp salt

250g dark muscovado sugar

160g ground almonds

5 eggs lightly beaten

Wash the syrup from the cherries and dry well. Then in large bowl mix all the fruit, marmalade, black treacle, the lemon and orange rind, the spice and 6 tablespoons of brandy. Cover the bowl with cling film or a cloth and leave to soak overnight.

TO MAKE THE CAKE

Pre-heat the oven to 140*C, gas mark 1. Line a deep round 8” cake tin. Weigh out all the ingredients, sifting the flour and salt.

In an electric mixer or with an electric hand mixer beat the sugar and butter together until thick, pale and creamy. Stir in the ground almonds and then gradually add the eggs. Once you have added all the eggs, fold in all the flour and salt with a large metal spoon, then combine the cake mix with the soaked fruit, creating a rich fruity batter.

Scrape the mix into the prepared cake tin, stand the tin in a large saucepan or casserole and cover with a sheet of baking parchment with a small hole cut in the middle. And bake for a good 2 ¾ to 3 hours. Start checking the cake after 2 ½ hours, and don’t panic if it takes more than 3 hours, it is very rich and make take a bit longer. The best way to check is by popping a fine skewer in the middle and if it comes out dry and clean the cake is cooked.

Leave it in the tin to cool, remove from tin, and then wrap it in baking parchment. Store in a cool place.

After a few days prick with a skewer and feed with a tablespoon of brandy. Repeat every week.