As we approach the Christmas Holidays it is time to think about what we will be eating. In the UK we do love our traditional Christmas Cake. So, although I have posted this recipe on my blog before, I am going to be making my Christmas Cake. This needs to be done in advance of Christmas, to give time to feed the cake with brandy over a few weeks and then to add the marzipan and royal icing.
The cake will keep, in an airtight tin for many months, and even years, so making it in advance is a good idea. In fact many people make theirs at the end of summer and keep it until Christmas to enjoy.
There are three distinct steps in making this cake, the first is the cake itself, which is full of fruit, chopped peel and nuts. Then fed with brandy as well. The second step is to cover the top and sides of the cake with marzipan(almond paste) which can be home-made or bought from a shop. The third step is to ice the cake.
Traditionally the icing should be royal icing. As it says on wikipedia, Royal icing is a hard white icing, made from softly beaten egg whites, icing sugar (powdered sugar), and sometimes lemon or lime juice. The use of raw egg whites is of concern to some people as there is a slight risk of salmonella in eggs. This fear can be allayed in two ways, firstly by using pasteursed egg whites that can be bought in most good supermarkets, or by pasteurising the eggs whites yourself.
If you decide you wish to pasteurise your eggs you can do it following the methods : How to pasteurise eggs
I shall be making three videos for the recipe and will update this blog each time I post a video, so you can make your cake along with me.
I have to say that this is a truly wonderful cake, so rich with fruit and so moist too. The marzipan with the delicious almond flavour is a treat too and the crunch of the icing is so much better than fondant icing, at least in this instance. A little glycerine can be used in the icing too, if you don’t want it to become too hard.
Even when you have started to eat the cake the remainder can be kept for months in an airtight container and it will still be wonderful to eat.
Below is the complete recipe, for all steps in making the cake. As I said above, the videos will be added as I complete each process over the next few weeks, in good time for you to be able to make this for Christmas.
For this cake I fed it after one week and then after two weeks with another two tablespoons of brandy each time. Then I left it a week, wrapped up, before applying the marzipan. After that I left it for three days for the marzipan to set up before applying the royal icing.
- 225g/8oz plain flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 200g/7oz butter
- 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
For the Marzipan topping on the cake:
- 400g/14oz marzipan(use more if you want a thicker marzipan layer)
- 1-2 tbsp apricot jam
- 1 tbsp water
- 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/130C Fan/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. ( I will do this twice, next week and the week after).
- After the final feed of brandy leave the cake for another week, in the foil and airtight container.
- To decorate the cake, place the cake on a turntable, foil board or cake plate.
- Dust your hands and the work surface with a little icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft.
- If the top of the cake is uneven turn it over so that the bottom becomes the top.
- You can then, if you wish, fill the gaps between what is now the bottom of the cake and the turntable with marzipan pieces, pushing it in to make the whole thing level. That will give you a level surface for the marzipan layer.
- Place the apricot jam and the water in a small pan and bring to the boil.
- Remove from the heat and strain to remove any bits.
- Brush the cake all over with the apricot jam.
- Roll out the marzipan to a thickness of 3-4 mm.
- Carefully pick the marzipan up, rolled over the rolling pin and gently lay on the cake, centering it so that the sides will be covered.
- Use your hands to flatten the marzipan on the top of the cake, sticking it to the apricot jam.
- Gently, using your hands again, flatten it against the sides too, lifting and pressing again to ensure no crinkles.
- Cover the cake with a clean tea towel and then leave in a cool place for at least one day, to allow the marzipan to set firm enough for the icing.
- 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.
- If you are doing a flat icing you can add it in layers and let it set before adding the next layer. But you need to keep the icing sugar in an airtight container, preferably with plastic film touching the surface, between layering. You can also sand the icing once it has set to make it entirely smooth all over.
- Decorate with Christmas ornaments, or however you wish.