Simmer-&-stir Christmas cake Prep: 1hr 15 mins. Coon: 2hr 30m mins.
- 175g butter chopped
- 200g dark muscovado sugar
- 750g luxury mixed dried fruit (one that includes mixed peel and glacé cherries)
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 100ml/3½ fl oz cherry brandy
or brandy plus 4tbsp more
- 85g macadamia nut
- 3 large egg lightly beaten
- 85g ground almond
- 200g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- Put the butter, sugar, fruit, zests, juice and 100ml/3½fl oz brandy in a large pan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the butter has melted. Reduce the heat and bubble for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150C/gas 2/ fan 130C and line a 20cm round cake tin. Toast the nuts in a dry frying pan, tossing them until evenly browned, or in the oven for 8-10 minutes – keep an eye on them as they burn easily. When they are cool, chop roughly. Stir the eggs, nuts and ground almonds into the fruit mixture and mix well. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into the pan. Stir in gently, until there are no traces of flour left.
- Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth it down evenly – you will find this is easiest with the back of a metal spoon which has been dipped into boiling water.
- Bake for 45 minutes, then turn down the heat to 140C/gas 1/ fan120C and cook for a further 1-1¼ hours (about a further 1¾ hours if you have a gas oven) until the cake is dark golden in appearance and firm to the touch. Cover the top of the cake with foil if it starts to darken too much. To check the cake is done, insert a fine skewer into the centre – if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.
- Make holes all over the warm cake with a fine skewer and spoon the extra 4tbsp brandy over the holes until it has all soaked in. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. When it’s cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap first in baking parchment and then in foil. The cake will keep in a cupboard for up to three months or you can freeze it for six months.
CLASSIC CHRISTMAS CAKE
- 450g currants (see Dried fruits note at foot of method)
- 175g sultanas (see Dried fruits note at foot of method)
- 175g raisins (see Dried fruits note at foot of method)
- 50g chopped glacé cherries (see Dried fruits note at foot of method)
- 50g mixed chopped candied peel (see Dried fruits note at foot of method)
- 100ml brandy
- Put all the fruits (see note at foot of method), in a bowl and mix them with the brandy, cover with a cloth and leave them to soak for a minimum of 12 hours. When you’re ready to cook the cake, pre-heat the oven to 140°C, gas mark 1. Now all you do is sift the flour, salt and spices into a very large roomy mixing bowl then add the sugar, eggs, treacle (warm it a little first to make it easier) and butter and beat with an electric hand whisk until everything is smooth and fluffy.
- Now gradually fold in the pre-soaked fruit mixture, chopped nuts and finally the grated lemon and orange zests. Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon and, if you don’t intend to decorate the cake with marzipan and icing, lightly drop the blanched almonds in circles over the surface.
- Finally take a double square of baking parchment with a 50p-sized hole in the centre (for extra protection during the cooking) and place this not on top of the mixture itself but on the rim of the brown paper. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched. Sometimes it can take 30–45 minutes longer than this, but in any case don’t look at it for 4 hours.
- Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.