Christmas cake

Makes: one 20cm round cake
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 4½ hours

Christmas-Fruit-CakeRT---CopyIngredients

450g (1lb) currants

175g (6oz) sultanas

175g (6oz) raisins

50g (2oz) glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped

50g (2oz) whole candied peel, finely chopped

3 tbsp brandy

225g (8oz) plain flour

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated

½ tsp ground mixed spice

225g (8oz) unsalted butter

225g (8oz) soft brown sugar

4 eggs

50g (2oz) almonds, chopped (skin on is fine)

1 dessertspoon black treacle

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grated zest of 1 orange

110g whole blanched almonds (only if you don’t intend to ice the cake)

EQUIPMENT

A 20cm round loose-based cake tin, or an 18cm square tin, greased, with base and side lined with some baking parchment. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of the tin for extra protection.

Method

1 You need to begin this cake the night before you want to bake it. All you do is weigh out the dried fruit and peel, place it in a mixing bowl and mix in the brandy as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave the fruit to absorb the brandy for 12 hours.

2 Next day preheat the oven to 140°C/R1. Then measure out all the rest of the ingredients, ticking them off to make quite sure they’re all there. The treacle will be easier to measure if you remove the lid and place the tin in a small pan of barely simmering water.

3 Now begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Next, in a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it’s light, pale and fluffy.

4 Now beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time; keep the whisk running until all the egg is incorporated. If you add the eggs slowly by degrees like this the mixture won’t curdle. If it does, don’t worry, any cake full of such beautiful things can’t fail to taste good! When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices using gentle, folding movements and not beating at all (this is to keep all that precious air in). Now fold in the soaked fruit, peel, chopped nuts and the treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.

5 Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of the spoon, and if you don’t intend to ice the cake, lightly place the whole blanched almonds in circles or squares all over the surface. Finally, take a double square of baking parchment with a 50p-sized hole in the centre (for extra protection during the long, slow cooking) and place this, not on top of the mixture itself, but on the rim of the brown paper. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched. Sometimes it can take up to 30-45 minutes longer than this, but in any case don’t open the oven door to look for at least 4 hours.

6 Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it’s cold, ‘feed’ it with brandy (insert a skewer into the top of the cake and then drizzle some brandy over the top and allow it to soak in), wrap it in double baking parchment secured with an elastic band and either wrap again in foil or store in an airtight tin. You can now feed it at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it.

For more Delia Christmas recipes go to deliaonline.com

Recipe adapted from Delia’s Happy Christmas, published by Ebury Press 2009 © Delia Smith 2014

Recipe and image courtesy of waitrose.com

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