So it is somehow December already and I have done no Christmas shopping or planning whatsoever; I wont be hosting Christmas lunch (my house is essentially a building site at the moment) but I do need to make dessert and some Christmassy nibbles. I did manage to be organised enough to bake a rich Christmas fruitcake last week though; I haven’t yet decided how I want to decorate it but I’ve got a few weeks left to come up with something.
This is a fairly traditional rich fruitcake recipe, but I’ve used a wider variety of dried fruits to make it a bit more interesting; as well as the usual raisins, sultanas, currants, mixed peel and glace cherries, I added chopped figs, apricots and dates and some dried cranberries. The fruits are soaked overnight in a mixture of orange juice and zest, dark rum (or use whisky, brandy or sherry) and Grand Marnier or Cointreau to help keep the cake moist. It also benefits from being baked a month or so in advance and fed weekly with a couple of spoonfuls of your alcohol of choice. The cake does take a long time to bake – up to five hours, because it needs to be baked at a really low temperature to ensure that it bakes all the way through without burning. To help stop it drying out in the oven, you need to line the inside of the tin with a double layer of baking parchment that comes well above the top of the tin AND wrap the outside of the tin in a double layer of brown packing paper.
I baked my cake in a deep, 18cm (7in) round tin so that it is really tall; the mix does come above the top of the tin but as long as you line it securely with a double layer of baking parchment that comes about 10cm above the top of the tin then it will bake with perfectly straight sides. You can also bake it in a deep 20cm (8in) round tin if you want a slightly less tall cake; in this case it will not take quite as long to bake, start checking after 2 hours (you will need to cover the top with foil partway through baking to stop the top from burning) but it will probably take about 4 hours.
The cake is delicious as is, but it is also perfect for decorating with marzipan and royal icing or fondant, I’ll share my design closer to Christmas so stay tuned! If you need some decorating inspiration now, check out the easy rustic cake I made last Christmas.
- 250g (8.8oz) dried figs
- 125g (4.4oz) dried apricots
- 125g (4.4oz) dates
- 100g (3.5oz) dried cranberries
- 100g (3.5oz) mixed candied peel
- 125g (4.4oz) glace cherries
- 125g (4.4oz) sultanas
- 125g (4.4oz) raisins
- 125g (4.4oz) currants
- zest and juice 1 large orange
- 100ml (1/3 cup + 1tbsp + 1tsp) dark rum
- 30ml (2tbsp) Grand Marnier or Cointreau
- 100g (3.5oz) almonds, roughly chopped
- 275g (1 cup + 2tbsp + 1tsp) softened butter
- 275g (1 + ½ cups, packed) dark muscovado sugar
- 3 tbsp treacle
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 4 large eggs
- 350g (scant 3 cups) plain flour
- 75g (1/2 cup + 2tbsp) ground almonds
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- finely ground seeds from 10 cardamom pods
- Start the cake the day before you want to bake it. Remove the hard stalk from the figs and chop the figs, apricots and dates into small pieces and place in a large bowl with the cranberries and candied peel. Chop the glace cherries - some into halves, some into quarters and add to the bowl. Add the sultanas, raisins, currants and orange zest and juice; pour over the rum and Grand Marnier then stir everything together. Cover and leave to steep overnight, giving it an occasional stir.
- The following day, preheat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 1. Grease a deep, 18cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with a double layer of baking parchment, making sure that it comes well above the top of the tin.
- Stir the chopped almonds into the fruit mixture. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, add the treacle and almond extract and beat until smooth.
- Whisk in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, ground almonds and spices.
- Fold a third of the flour mixture into the butter sugar mixture then add a third of the fruit mix; continue to alternate adding the flour and fruit until it is all well combined, the mixture will be quite stiff.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared tin, it will come above the top of the tin. Level the top with the back of a spoon and tap the tin once on the work surface to burst any bubbles. Wrap a folded piece of brown parcel paper around the tin and tie it securely in place with string.
- Bake for 4 and a half to 5 hours until dark golden brown and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out with a few moist crumbs but no wet batter on it. Loosely cover the top of the cake with tin foil after about 2 hours to stop it from browning too much.
- Remove the cake from the oven and drizzle over a couple of tablespoons of rum, loosely cover the top with tin foil then leave in the tin until completely cold.
- Once cold, unwrap the cake and re-wrap in a double layer of baking parchment then a double layer of tin foil. Once every week or two, feed the cake by unwrapping it and drizzling a spoonful of rum or Grand Marnier over the top, and bottom of the cake then re-wrap securely and store in a cool, dry place. Don't feed the cake the week before icing it so that the surface is dry.