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Nov 05

Classic Fruit Cake

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It is time if you are so inclined to start preparing for Christmas and making your Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. There are a number of great Christmas bakes from around the world such as Weihnachtsstollen or Christstollen or simply Stollen in Germany, the familiar dome shape of Panettone from Italy or the French Bûche de Noël or Yule log, a rich iced chocolate cake. In the United Kingdom we traditionally celebrate with a decorated spiced, fruitcake.* The cake is normally covered with a layer or marzipan then fondant or royal icing and decorated with Father Christmases, red-breasted robins, bows, bells, holly, and other Christmas symbols.

This is my goto recipe for fruitcake, rich and flavoursome enough for a christening or wedding cake or a Christmas Cake, it is sturdy enough to carry the weight of marzipan and icing and be used in tiers. It is a real family favourite and we bake at least one a month, it is a great match for a nice crumbly cheese like Wensleydale or Caerphilly, which is a proper nod to my Yorkshire ancestry. I haven’t specified the dried fruit you can use a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, apricots, cranberries, prunes or figs and you can omit the nuts if you prefer and add an extra eighty grams of flour. I use raisins, sultanas, lots of cherries and dried mixed peel.

The secret to a rich, delicious Christmas cake alongside a generous mix of seasonal spices is to feed the finished cake. In the run up to decorating your cake you can add a couple of spoonsful of whisky, sherry or brandy to the cake to really keep it moist.

*Dundee Cake is a lighter fruit cake made with currants, sultanas, mixed peel and almonds and flavoured with whisky. It was popularised by a Scottish marmalade company called Keiller’s, who first mass-produced the cake commercially in the mid-nineteenth century and claimed to have introduced the name ‘Dundee cake’. It is normally topped with rings of blanched, whole almonds.

 

Classic Fruit Cake

750 gr Mixed Dried Fruit

200 gr Self Raising Flour

250 gr soft Unsalted Butter

250 gr light Brown Sugar

100 gr Ground Almonds

75 gr Flaked Almonds

5 large free-range Eggs

1 tablespoon Black Treacle

1 teaspoon Ground Ginger

1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

½ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

A generous pinch of Ground Cloves

½ teaspoon Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Almond extract

100 ml Brandy, Whisky or Bourbon

Zest and juice of 1 Orange

Zest and juice of 1 Lemon

 

Buttered, lined, deep twenty-centimetre cake tin

Put the dried fruit, zests and juice and alcohol into a large bowl and leave for twenty-four hours stirring occasionally. Heat oven to 150C / 300 F / Gas Mark 2. Put a damp cloth onto the work surface and place your largest mixing bowl on top. Add the softened butter, sugar, treacle and almond essence and cream together. Crack the eggs one by one into a small bowl to check they are fresh, then combine and whisk together. Sift the flour, spices and baking powder into another bowl.

Add the egg mix in batches and beat into the butter and sugar mix. Add a couple of tablespoons of flour with each batch to prevent the mix from splitting. When all of the egg is mixed in add the remaining flour and spice mix and fold together until thoroughly combined. Add the soaked fruits and flaked almonds and gently stir together. Tip the cake mix into your prepared cake tin, and tap on the work surface to knock out any pockets of air. Place in the centre of the oven bake for an hour, cover the top with two layers of baking paper and turn the oven down to 140C / 275 F / Gas Mark 1 and cook for around two and a half to three more hours or until a wooden skewer inserted in the cakes centre comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. To feed your cake poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over tablespoons of your chosen alcohol, wrap in fresh baking paper and tin foil and place in a biscuit tin or plastic tub. Feed the cake with two tablespoons of alcohol every fortnight, until you marzipan it before icing.