This Christmas cake has been 3 weeks in preparation. I could actually have started it a couple of months ago, but I knew I was going away and wouldn’t be here to feed it for a couple of weeks, so I delayed starting.
Christmas cake is a particular favourite of mine, as it is rich with fruit and has the marzipan and royal icing cover that I so love. I remember it fondly from my childhood. These days most icing seems to be that rather insipid stuff that you can roll out, and has no flavour, but a multitude of colours.
My one cheat on this cake is that I bought marzipan, rather than make it myself. Naughty really, but it is not a big thing.
The cooking takes a while and I wrapped the outside of the tin in a double layer of brown paper, to try to avoid any excessive browning on the top. I did end up with some rather crusty fruit and a slightly crusty top though, which I cut off. I think that left one side slightly higher than the other, but it is no great problem.
There are many recipes online for Christmas cake, and different types of fruit and proportions of one fruit against another. I opted for my trusty BBC Food site for this cake. On site site they also have links on how to put the marzipan on and how to do the icing.
Now I am not very good at the artistic touches, so I have just made peaks on my icing, rather than skimming it flat and writing Merry Christmas on the top. Although I have included glycerine in the recipe I didn’t actually use it myself. My understanding is that using glycerine keeps the icing from setting hard. Since my childhood memories are always of rock hard icing that is what I wanted for my cake.
Although presentation is important much more so is the taste, and I am confident this will be just as scrummy as a cake can be.
When the cakes is cut I will post this again, but with a photo of the cake, sliced, and a report on the taste.
225g/8oz plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
200g/7oz dark brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp marmalade
¼ tsp vanilla essence
4 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
800g/1¾lb mixed dried fruits
100g/3½oz chopped mixed peel
150g/5oz glacé cherries, halved
100g/3½oz blanched almonds, chopped
1-2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed
3 free-range egg whites
600g/1lb 5oz icing sugar, sieved
1½ tsp liquid glycerine – optional
1 tbsp lemon juice
- Heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Grease a 20cm/8inch round or an 18cm/7inch square cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
- Sieve the flour, salt, mixed spice and cinnamon into a bowl.
- 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.
- Mix the eggs a little at a time into the mixture adding a tablespoon of flour mixture with the last amount.
- Fold in the remaining flour mixture until well mixed and then mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, glace cherries and the almonds.
- Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and make a slight hollow in the centre.
- Bake in the oven for 3 hours and then test with a skewer. If not ready bake for up to another hour testing every 20 minutes until the skewer comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.
- Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.
- 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.
- Store the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, holes side up.
- OPTIONAL: For a rich and moist cake, spoon over a few tablespoons of brandy every week until you are ready to ice and decorate your cake.
- To decorate the cake, place the cake on a foil board or cake plate.
- Dust your hands and the work surface with a little icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft.
- 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.
- Brush the cake all over with the warmed apricot jam and then place the marzipan on top and around the cake.
- Cover the cake with a clean tea towel and then leave in a cool place for at least one day.
- To make the 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 the lemon juice.
- Spread icing all over cake either flat iced using a clean ruler or by forming soft peaks. Decorate with Christmas ornaments.