Traditional Christmas cake
600g your choice of dried fruit 75g candied orange peel, finely chopped 1 tablespoon marmalade or apricot jam, plus 100g extra for glazing 100ml brandy, plus extra for feeding (optional) 125g unsalted butter, softened 120g dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon honey 1 tablespoon treacle 3 eggs 100g plain flour 25g almond meal ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg ¼ teaspoon ground cloves ¼ teaspoon ground allspice 50g whole blanched almonds
1 Combine the dried fruit, candied orange peel and marmalade or jam in a large bowl. Splash the brandy over the top and leave it to soak overnight on the kitchen bench. 2 Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start to make your cake. This will help the mixing and mingling, and will prevent the batter from curdling. 3 Preheat the oven to 140°C. Line a 26cm round or square cake tin with brown paper followed by buttered baking paper, then dust with flour and set aside. 4 Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium speed for 3–4 minutes or until pale and fluffy. (Or do this in a bowl with a wooden spoon.) Trickle in the honey and treacle and beat again, watching as the butter turns a creamy caramel colour. 5 Crack the eggs into a small bowl and lightly beat them together with a fork before adding them gradually to the cake batter. I always take this extra step, no matter what type of cake I am adding eggs to, as it makes them more fluid and substantially reduces the chances of the butter curdling. 6 Sift the flour, almond meal and spices into a bowl. 7 Remove the butter mixture from the machine (if using one) and fold through one-third of the soaked dried fruit by hand (including any brandy) followed by onethird of the flour mixture, alternating until both have been completely incorporated. 8 Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with the back of a tablespoon or a palette knife, then decorate it with the whole almonds. Pop the tin on the middle rack of your oven and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove and cool completely in the tin. 9 Once the cake is cooled you may want to “feed” it with more brandy. Use a skewer to pierce holes all over the surface, then brush the top with lots of brandy so that it soaks into the holes. Heat the extra marmalade or jam in a small saucepan and brush it over the top of the cake to glaze it and prevent the surface from drying out. 10 If you want to make this cake well in advance of Christmas so that the fruits mature, skip the glazing process and wrap it really well in a layer of baking paper, followed by foil around the outside. Store it in a cool place.
For the booziest Christmas cake ever, feed the cake once a week until Christmas, then glaze with marmalade or jam just before serving. Nadine