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Christmas Cake

Introduction & method

I've always been put off making Christmas cake by the insistence of purists that you must make it at least five weeks in advance and feed it regularly with brandy to keep it moist. But you can have this cake finished and ready eat in only two days and you'll never know the difference.

Christmas Cake Recipe

Prep the Dried Fruit

You can use any combination of dried fruits and maybe include figs, prunes, apricots or cherries if you like - as long as the total weight of fruit is 900 grams (two pounds). Cut any large fruit such as dates or apricots into small pieces. Place them in a saucepan with the butter, sugar and brandy - cut the butter into small chunks so it melts faster. Bring it to the boil, simmer for five minutes then remove from heat and let it cool for at least half an hour. By the way, if you don't want to use alcohol, tea is a good substitute.

Make the Cake

Mix all of the batter ingredients together with the soaked fruit. Stir well so there are no streaks of flour or sugar. Line a deep 20cm (8 inch) cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the batter and level off the top with a palette knife. Heat your oven to 130°C (266°F) for a fan/convection oven, 150°C (302°F) conventional, gas 2. Put the cake in and bake it for two hours. Check that it is done by inserting a skewer into the centre - if it comes out clean and dry, the cake is done, otherwise give it extra ten minutes until it is baked. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool completely in the tin.

Decorate the Cake

Slice the top off the cake to get a nice even surface. Tip the cake out onto a plate or cake board and spread it with apricot jam. Sprinkle some icing sugar on your worktop and roll out a disc of marzipan - it needs to be large enough to cover the top and drape down the sides. Smooth out the marzipan and work the side so there are no folds or creases. Leave the marzipan to dry for a few hours or put it in a proving drawer/warming oven at 60° Celsius (146° Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. Roll out a disc of white fondant icing and drape that over the cake. Smooth it down and trim any excess off the bottom. On my cake I made a quilted effect by pressing the edge of a ruler in at 45 degrees in both directions, making lines 2½ cm (an inch) apart. Press an edible silver pearl into the intersections of the lines. Use a bit of water to make the pearls stick. You can do any decoration you like for the top - I made holly leaves with fondant icing coloured with green food colouring, and cranberries for the berries. 
You can eat the cake straight away, but it will improve with time - keep it in an airtight container if you're not scoffing it immediately.

The video above is from the Keef Cooks YouTube channel. Click here to see the video recipe of Christmas Cake on YouTube.

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Ingredients & Info

 900 grams mixed dried fruits (choose from: raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, cranberries, apricots, prunes or figs)
 250 grams unsalted butter
 200 grams light brown sugar
 100 grams ground almonds
 100 grams flaked or chopped almonds
 175 grams plain white (all-purpose) flour
 150 ml brandy, whiskey or rum
  zest and juice of 1 lemon
 half a tsp baking powder
 1 tsp ground cinnamon
 1 tsp allspice
 quarter tsp ground cloves
 4 medium eggs
 1 tsp vanilla extract
 250 grams marzipan
 250 grams white fondant icing
 some green food colouring
 2 tbsp apricot jam
 3 cranberries


A little icing sugar to sprinkle on your worktop

US Customary/Imperial

Serves 10 
Prep time: 30 minutes.
Drying/cooling time: 12 hours.
Cooking time: 2 hours.
Total time: 14 hours 30 minutes.