JEWELLED FRUIT CAKE
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.