JEWELLED FRUIT CAKE

Country Living (UK) - - Food & Drink -

Prepa­ra­tion 45 min­utes, plus mac­er­at­ing Cook­ing 3 hours This is the per­fect cake for peo­ple who pre­fer a lighter, less-rich ver­sion of the Christ­mas clas­sic. Tra­di­tional royal ic­ing is re­placed by a fes­tive ar­range­ment of nuts and glacé fruits.

170g each of raisins, sul­tanas and cur­rants 100g each of dried cran­ber­ries and blue­ber­ries 75ml aqua­vit zest and juice 1 orange 225g very soft un­salted but­ter, plus ex­tra for greas­ing 225g light soft brown sugar 4 medium eggs, beaten with a large pinch salt 285g plain flour 1 tsp each ground car­damom and ground cin­na­mon 4 tbsp apri­cot jam 1 tbsp brandy se­lec­tion of un­salted nuts such as pecans, Brazils and blanched al­monds se­lec­tion of glacé fruit

1 Put the dried fruit in a large bowl with the aqua­vit, orange zest and juice. Cover and leave to mac­er­ate overnight.

2 Heat the oven to 140°C (120°C fan oven) gas mark 1. Grease and line the base and sides of an 8cm deep 20cm di­am­e­ter cake tin with bak­ing parch­ment. Wrap a dou­ble thick­ness of brown pa­per around the out­side and tie in place with string.

3 Beat the but­ter and sugar to­gether in your largest bowl with elec­tric beat­ers (or in a free-stand­ing mixer) un­til soft and lighter in colour.

4 Grad­u­ally add the eggs, beat­ing well be­tween each ad­di­tion. If the mix­ture cur­dles, beat in 1 tbsp flour.

5 If us­ing a free-stand­ing mixer, gen­tly trans­fer the creamed mix­ture into your largest bowl – you will need plenty of room. Fold in the flour and spices, fol­lowed by the dried fruit and any juices. Turn into the pre­pared cake tin, gen­tly firm­ing and lev­el­ling the mix­ture as you go. Bake for about 3 hours un­til a skewer in­serted in to the cen­tre of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, then re­move from the tin. When cold, keep wrapped in the bak­ing parch­ment plus a layer of cling­film. Store in an air­tight con­tainer for one month, feed­ing once a week with brandy.

6 When you’re ready to dec­o­rate, make the glaze. Put the jam in a small pan with a splash of brandy and heat gen­tly, stir­ring, un­til melted. Push through a sieve to re­move any fi­brous strands. Cool.

7 Trim the cake so that it has a flat top and base. Brush the top with a thick layer of apri­cot glaze. Pile the glacé fruits and nuts on top of the cake in a dec­o­ra­tive ar­range­ment. Brush with more glaze if you like.

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