Christmas Cake

I remember Christmas cake was the first fairly ambitious cake I made unaided. I was 14 and we'd always had bought Christmas cakes at home as my Dad was given a hamper of Christmas goodies from work every year. Among other treats, this included a Peek Frean’s cake and a Mrs Peek’s pudding. I said to my mum, why don’t we make our own this year? Quick as a flash, she said: “Why don’t you make our own this year?”

So I did and have been making them ever since. They always turn out well apart from one year when I decided to pre-soak the fruit in brandy and orange and lemon juice: don’t try this at home!

The fruit all sank: resulting in a bottom layer of fruit and a top layer of completely fruitless cake! We never speak of this incident without wincing, especially as two of our closest friends were sitting expectantly in the next room as we cut into it in the kitchen not realising what had happened!

Anyway, here is the latest version, extra fruity, with a little less added sugar, some ground almonds and chopped prunes for extra lusciousness. But absolutely no over-soaking of fruit, is involved, obviously!

Sufficient for a 23cm (9inch) cake

  • 600g mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 150g prunes
  • 50g cranberries
  • 175ml freshly brewed hot tea, Earl Grey works well
  • 4 tablespoons dark rum/brandy/whisky or sherry
  • 175g salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons black treacle
  • 2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 50g almonds
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten

You will need a buttered and lined 23cm loose bottomed cake tin or a buttered silicone cake mould and baking tray

Preheat oven to 150C (fan ovens) or equivalent

Soak the dried fruit in the tea and alcohol for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to a large saucepan with the butter, treacle and spices. Bring it almost to the boil and simmer gently for five minutes. Leave to cool.

Stir in the ground almonds. Add the baking powder to the weighed flour and sieve some over the mixture. Add the eggs, top with a little more flour and stir thoroughly. Stir in the rest of the flour. Finally, stir in the alcohol.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Leave to settle in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. If using a silicone mould, cool completely before turning out.

When cold, wrap in clean greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container.

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