There are a lot of mixed feelings about fruitcake, some people love it, others hate it with a fiery passion; I am firmly in the first camp, I adore fruitcake (of course I do. It’s cake.) and will happily eat it year round; fruitcake is not just for Christmas, though I wouldn’t want to celebrate it without it. Traditionally, Christmas cake should be made a good while in advance to allow it to mature; I am not that organised however so I made a cake that requires minimal maturing; though it certainly wouldn’t harm it if you wanted to make it a month or so in advance.
I baked mine a week before icing it and fed it with a couple of spoonfuls of booze twice; the cake is perfectly moist and flavourful; this is due to the fact that I added chopped figs and dates to the fruit mixture, both of which provide lots of moisture, I pre-soaked the fruit in a mixture of alcohol and orange juice so that it became plump and moist; and I added a good amount of chopped crystallised and stem ginger which add lots of flavour and bursts of warmth. I used Cointreau to soak the fruit in and to feed the cake with, simply because I had a limited selection of booze in the cupboard; feel free to use whatever type of spirit suits you. Ginger wine would give a nice extra kick of ginger, or rum, brandy and sherry work well.
I made royal icing from scratch to decorate the cake with, it is really simple to make but does contain raw egg white so if you have any problems with eating raw egg then you can use royal icing box mix instead. The decorations on top are really simple to do, but create a beautiful rustic effect (though please do remember that they aren’t edible…); I used a couple of small pine cones that were originally Christmas tree decorations, some cinnamon sticks and star anise, dried orange slices and sugared cranberries, rosemary and bay leaves. Because I used fresh cranberries and rosemary they wont last as long as decorations made from fondant, so it is best not to decorate the cake until you are ready to display it.
I was very kindly sent a hand mixer, cake lifter and some cake decorating tools by Domu to use for this cake. I was especially grateful to receive the mixer as my old one was so ancient that it used to belong to my late grandmother…it is nice to be using one that is a little more powerful now! The cake lifter is so useful for moving your cakes around, gone are the days of precariously picking it up with a couple of spatulas…I was originally going to make a cake with fondant decorations but changed my mind so didn’t use the cake decorating tools in the end but I am sure they will come in handy in the future. Incidentally, all of these things would make great Christmas presents for the baker in your life…
Gingered Christmas Fruitcake With Rustic Decorations
- 80 g (2.8oz) dried figs, chopped
- 65 g (2.3oz) dried cranberries
- 65 g (2.3oz) dates, chopped
- 50 g (1.75oz) glace cherries, chopped
- 30 g (1oz) mixed candied peel
- 50 g (1.75oz) raisins
- 50 g (1.75oz) sultanas
- 50 g (1.75oz) currants
- 100 g (3.5oz) crystallised ginger, chopped
- 50 g (1.75oz0 stem ginger, finely chopped
- zest of 1 + juice 1/2 orange
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp stem ginger syrup
- 4 tbsp ginger wine/rum/brandy/cointreau/sherry plus extra for feeding
- 140 g (1/3 + 1/4 cups) softened butter
- 140 g (2/3 cup + 2tbsp) light brown soft sugar
- 1.5 tbsp treacle
- 2 eggs
- 175 g (1 + 1/2 cups) plain flour
- 40 g (1/3 cup) ground almonds
- 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- pinch salt
- 3 tbsp apricot jam or marmalade
- 500 g (17.5oz) marzipan
- 2 large egg whites
- 400 g (4 cups) icing (powdered) sugar, sifted
- 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp glycerine optional, but stops the icing from set rock solid
- 1 small orange
- a couple of small pine cones
- 1 egg white
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- handful fresh cranberries
- couple sprigs fresh rosemary
- a few bay leaves
- granulated sugar
- cinnamon sticks
- star anise
- icing sugar
The day before you want to bake the cake, mix all of the dried fruits together in a large bowl and stir in the orange and lemon zests, orange juice, stem ginger syrup and alcohol, cover and leave to soak overnight.
The following day, preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Grease a deep 15cm/6in round cake tin and line the base and sides with a double thickness of baking parchment, making sure that it comes a good 10cm above the top of the tin.
Cream together the butter, sugar and treacle with an electric mixer until pale, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a spoonful of the flour if the mixture looks like it is about to split.
Sift together the flour, ground almonds, spices and salt then fold into the the creamed mixture followed by the soaked fruit; combine well.
Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 2 hours to 2 hours 45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean; cover with tin foil if it starts to get too dark.
When the cake is ready, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of your choice of alcohol over the top then leave it to cool completely in the tin. When cold, remove it from the tin and peel off the parchment; wrap in tin foil and store for up to three weeks, feeding it with alcohol a couple of times a week. I stored it for one week before covering it in marzipan, feeding it twice.
When you are ready to ice the cake, trim the top to level it if necessary, turn it upside down and place it on a cake board or serving platter; use a little of the marzipan to fill in any holes in the cake and gaps between the cake and board. Gently warm the jam in a microwave or in a small pan on the stove until it is runny then brush a thin layer of it all over the cake, avoiding any bits.
Knead the marzipan a little to warm it up, then roll it out on a surface dusted with icing sugar to a large circle about 5mm thick. Drape the marzipan over the top of the cake, dust your hands with icing sugar and smooth the marzipan over the top and sides to cover the cake completely, working out any folds and wrinkles. Trim to make a neat edge. At this point you can leave the cake to dry out for a couple of days if you like, or proceed straight to making the icing.
Place the egg whites in a large, very clean bowl and whisk until they are just foamy. Stir in the icing sugar a spoonful at a time with a spatula then add the lemon juice and glycerine if using. Whisk with an electric mixer until it is very thick and white and stands up in stiff peaks.
Cover the top and sides of the cake with the royal icing, smoothing it with a palette knife. Try to level the top but don't worry about getting it completely smooth, it should be a slightly rough finish. You will probably have a bit of icing left over, it will keep, covered, in the fridge for a week.
Allow the icing to dry a little before decorating. While it is drying make the dried orange slices. Heat the oven to it's lowest setting. Cut the orange into thin slices and lay them on a wire rack; place the rack in the oven and bake for a couple of hours until dried; they will still feel a little bit tacky. remove from the oven and leave to cool.
To make the sugared cranberries, rosemary and bay leaves, beat the egg white with the 2tsp sugar until just frothy. Pour some granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Dip the cranberries in the egg white and shake off any excess, allow to dry a little then roll in the sugar, place on a tray and leave to dry for at least half an hour; repeat with the rosemary and bay leaves.
Arrange the pine cones, a couple of the dried orange slices, the sugared cranberries, rosemary and bay leaves and a few cinnamon sticks and star anise on the top of the cake and finally dust with a little icing sugar.
I am sharing this with Saucy Saturdays hosted by The Flavour Bender, Take Two Tapas, La Petit Chef and Mid-Life Croissant, Fabulous Foodie Fridays, Fiesta Friday hosted by Herbs Spices & Traditions and Kitchen Uncorked, Foodie FriDIY, Foodie Friends Friday, Friday Favourites and Friday Features