This is the best Christmas cake recipe! It always turns out well and will keep for months if wrapped in clingfilm and foil. It is moist and dense with fruit, it is not a ‘cakey’ cake, and it stays nice and flat without a peak.I don’t ice it as we prefer it plain, but it looks lovely covered with marzipan and royal icing! Traditionally you should make it months in advance of Christmas, but I have made it as late as 21st December and it has been just as good. I don’t bother to feed it either, I think there’s enough alcohol soaked in with the fruit, but that’s up to individual taste.
- 1 lb (450 g) currants
- 6 oz (175 g) sultanas
- 6 oz (175 g) raisins
- 2 oz (50 g) glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
- 2 oz (50 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons brandy, (I use sherry and pour a good glug in rather more than 3 tablespoons!) plus extra for ‘feeding’
- 8 oz (225 g) plain flour
- ½ level teaspoon salt
- ¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice
- 8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter
- 8 oz (225 g) soft brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 oz (50 g) almonds, chopped (the skins can be left on) or chopped mixed nuts, walnuts etc.
- 1 level dessertspoon black treacle
- grated zest 1 lemon
- grated zest 1 orange
- 4 oz (110 g) whole blanched almonds (only if you don’t intend to ice the cake)
If you wish you can use any combination of dried fruits so long as the total weight is the same as the recipe. I sometimes use bags of mixed fruit. The ‘luxury’ mixed fruit sometimes includes the glace cherries, in which case you wouldn’t need to include them.
You will also need an 8 inch (20 cm) round cake tin or a 7 inch (18 cm) square tin, greased and lined with silicone paper (baking parchment). I actually use an 8 inch (20cm) square tin which makes a bigger cake but not quite so deep.Tie a doubled band of brown paper round the outside of the tin for extra protection.
You need to begin this cake the night before you want to bake it and preferably a couple of days before.. All you do is weigh out the dried fruit, cherries and mixed peel, place it in a mixing bowl and mix in the brandy or sherry as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth or plate and leave the fruit aside to absorb the brandy for 12 hours. I like to leave it for 24-48 hours to get as much flavour absorbed as possible, and to make sure the fruit is nice and plump.Stir it every now and then to make sure the sherry covers everything! Add a little more if it looks as if its all been absorbed and keep stirring now and then.
Next day pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F /140°C / Fan Oven 130C. (Yes, it is the lowest temperature in the oven but it works!)
Then measure out all the rest of the ingredients, ticking them off to make quite sure they’re all there.
1. Sift the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing.
2. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it’s light, pale and fluffy.
3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time; keep the whisk running until all the egg is incorporated. If you add the eggs slowly by degrees like this the mixture won’t curdle. If it does, don’t worry, any cake full of such beautiful things can’t fail to taste good!
4. When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices, using gentle, folding movements and not beating at all (this is to keep all that precious air in).
6. Now fold in the fruit, peel, chopped nuts and treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.
7. Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon and, if you don’t intend to ice the cake, lightly drop the whole blanched almonds in circles or squares all over the surface.
8. Finally cover the top of the cake with a double square of silicone paper with a 50p-size hole in the centre (this gives extra protection during the long slow cooking). Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4½-4¾ hours. Sometimes it can take up to ½-¾ hour longer than this, but in any case don’t look till at least 4 hours have passed.
9. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it’s cold ‘feed’ it – make small holes in the top and base of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of brandy, wrap it in double silicone paper secured with an elastic band and either wrap again in foil or store in an airtight container. You can now feed it at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it.
Tags: almonds, black treacle, brandy, butter, candied peel, currants, eggs, glace cherries, lemon, mixed spice, nutmeg, orange, plain flour, raisins, salt, sherry, soft brown sugar, sultanas
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