This year I decided I would actually get round to making a Christmas cake. I used this recipe, but made a few little changes to it. The night before I made my cake, I soaked my dried fruit in brandy to get more of that brandy flavour into it. I also replaced the 100g of mixed peel with another 100g of dried fruit, as I don’t really know anyone that likes the peel. I made my Christmas cake in advance, on the 25th October so that I could feed it with brandy every week before Christmas for a stronger flavour. However it is possible to make it nearer the time – it’ll just be less boozy!
For the cake you will need:
225g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
200g dark brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp marmalade
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
4 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
800g dried mixed fruit
100g chopped mixed peel
150g glace cherries, halved
100g blanched almonds, chopped
To decorate the cake, you will need:
1-2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
For the royal icing, you will need:
3 free-range egg whites
600g icing sugar, sieved
1 1/2 tsp liquid glycerine (optional)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1. Heat your oven to Gas Mark 2/150C/350F. Grease and line the sides and bottom of a 20cm/8 inch round or 18cm/7 inch square cake tin with baking parchment.
2. Sieve the flour, salt, mixed spice and cinnamon into a bowl.
3. Cream the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the treacle, marmalade and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.
4. Mix the eggs into the mixture a little at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour with the last amount.
5. Fold in the remaining flour mixture until well mixed and then mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, glace cherries and almonds.
6. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and make a hollow in the centre.
7. Bake in the oven for 3 hours and then test with a skewer. If the cake isn’t ready, bake for up to another hour, testing every 20 minutes until the skewer comes out clean.
8. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.
9. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
10. Once cool, make a few holes in the cake with a skewer and pour over 3-4 tbsp of brandy. Let the brandy soak into the cake.
11. Store the cake wrapped in foil/brown paper/newspaper and in an airtight container.
12. If you have time before you ice your cake, spoon over a few tablespoons of brandy every week until you’re ready to ice it.
13. To decorate the cake, place it on a foil board or cake plate.
14. Dust your hands and the work surface with icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft.
15. Roll out half the marzipan to fit the top of the cake and roll out the rest in strips to fit around the sides of the cake.
16. Brush the cake all over with the warmed apricot jam and then place the marzipan on the top and sides of the cake.
17. Cover the cake with a clean teatowel and leave it in a cool place for at least one day.
18. To make the royal icing, lightly whisk the egg whites adding the sugar at intervals. Beat well until the icing reaches soft peaks. Add the glycerine (if using) and lemon juice.
19. Spread the icing over the cake, either flat or by forming soft peaks. Decorate with Christmas ornaments.
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