A traditional, rich Christmas Cake which can be made up to 3 months in advance saving you time in the busy run-up to Christmas. Perfect for serving to unexpected guests.
I have lovely memories of baking a Christmas Cake every year with my mum and my brother. My mum always told my brother and I to make a wish as we stirred the cake mixture. Even although my husband doesn’t like Christmas Cake (I know, is he crazy?!?) he still has to join in with the tradition and make a wish!
This Christmas Cake contains 900g of dried fruit. You can alter which types of dried fruit you use. I love glacé cherries so use loads of these and I like to use a lighter coloured fruit (e.g. apricots) for variation. If you use currants, try to pick off as many of the stalks as possible or people will get a nasty crunch when they eat the cake.
I used this recipe for one of my wedding cakes: I added dried blueberries and cranberries to the cake for a bit of a change. I also put a thin circle of marzipan in between layers of raw cake mixture, much like in a Simnel Cake. I haven’t tested how long this will stay fresh for so am yet to try this in a Christmas cake, but it is delicious!
adapted from ‘Classic Christmas Cake’ by Delia Smith
For the cake:
- 300g glacé cherries
- 250g raisins
- 200g sultanas
- 75g mixed peel
- 65g dried apricots
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 orange zest and 4 tbsp juice
- 4 tbsp brandy (plus more for ‘feeding’)
- 225g unsalted butter
- 225g light brown, soft sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 225g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground mixed spice
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 dessert spoon treacle
- 50g chopped almonds
For the decoration:
- apricot jam
- 700g marzipan
- 2 large egg white
- 500g icing sugar
- 1 tsp glycerine
- 1 tsp lemon juice
1. Cut up the glacé cherries. I cut some in half and some in quarters. Rinse them in a sieve to remove the stickiness then pat dry using kitchen towel. Chop the dried apricots into pieces.
2. Weigh out the rest of the dried fruit. Add the zest, orange juice and brandy. Mix well. Cover and leave overnight for the fruit to soak up the liquid.
3. Prepare either a 20cm deep, round tin or a 18cm deep, square tin. Grease the tin and line it with a double layer of baking paper. wrap the outside of the tin with a double layer of brown paper and tie in place with string. This helps to prevent the outside of the cake from browning too much.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 120°C fan/140°C.
5. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will take a few minutes if using an electric mixer, and quite a bit longer if beating by hand. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and beat after each addition. I like to add a little of the flour with the eggs to prevent the mixture from curdling.
6. Sieve in the flour, salt and spices and fold gently to combine with a spatula or metal spoon.
7. Add the treacle (warm the spoon slightly to make this easier) and nuts and fold in.
8. Finally, add the dried fruit mixture and fold until combined.
9. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Cover with a double layer of baking paper with a 50p-size hole in the centre to allow steam to escape.
10. Bake on the bottom shelf for 4-5 hours. The cake should be firm to the touch and a skewer should come out clean.
11. Cool for 30 minutes in the tin before removing from the tin and peeling off the baking paper. Leave the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
12. Once the cake is cold, pierce some holes with a skewer and drizzle with 2-3 tbsp brandy. Wrap the cake tightly in a double layer of baking paper, then foil and keep in an airtight container. Do not wrap the cake directly in foil as the fruit can react with the foil.
13. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp brandy about once a fortnight until ready to ice. This will help to keep it moist, especially if made well in advance.
14. When ready to decorate, spread a thin layer of apricot jam over the surface of your cake. This helps the marzipan to stick.
15. Dust your worktop lightly with icing sugar and roll out your marzipan into a large circle. It needs to be big enough to cover the entire cake. Lay it carefully on top and gradually begin smoothing it down the sides. Once smooth, cut the excess off with a sharp knife.
16. To make the royal icing, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the icing sugar, a spoonful at a time, and continue to mix. When all the sugar is mixed in, add the glycerine and lemon juice. Keep whisking until the icing is thick and stands in peaks. Spread over the cake with a palette knife.
17. Decorate as you wish: this year I used natural materials for a sophisticated look. You may wish to make models using fondant icing or shop bought decorations or ribbons.