Traditional Christmas cake
200g currants 200g raisins 100g dried figs 100g dried prunes 100g dried cherries 100g dried apricots 50g candied peel 100ml brandy, plus 2 tbsp per fortnight 250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing 250g dark brown soft sugar 4 eggs Zest and juice of 1 orange Zest and juice of 1 lemon ½ tsp baking powder ½ tsp sea salt ½ nutmeg, grated 1 tsp ground mixed spice 250g plain flour 50g whole bleached almonds, plus 50g ground almonds 50g morello glacé cherries In a large mixing bowl, combine the dried fruit with the candied peel, then warm the brandy in a jug in the microwave for 1 min. Mix in the brandy, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to soak for 2 hrs. Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin. Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 3. In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for 2 mins until creamy. Beat in the eggs thoroughly, one at a time, then add the zest and juice of the orange and lemon. Stir thoroughly, then fold in the baking powder, sea salt, nutmeg, mixed spice and then the flour. Stir in all the almonds, glacé cherries and pre-soaked fruit. Fill the prepared cake tin with the mixture and flatten the top with the back of a spoon. Fold two sheets of newspaper into a multi-layered strip to fit around the cake tin. Wrap the paper around the outside of the tin and tie tightly with string; this helps prevent the edges burning. Bake for 2 hrs 30 mins until firm or a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted. Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin, then remove and wrap in a layer of greaseproof paper and then a layer of tin foil. Keep in a cool, dark place. Every 10 days, feed the cake with brandy by firstly removing the wrapping and inserting a skewer six times into the cake, almost to the bottom. Using a spoon, drizzle 2 tbsp of brandy slowly over the top of the cake. The brandy should soak in. Rewrap the cake and leave in a cool, dark place. Feed for 6 weeks or until the cake is iced.