Baking cakes and puddings isn’t my forte, mostly because in my attempts not to turn into the Michelin tyre woman, sweet things are the easiest to avoid. Chocolate bars hang around in my cupboard for months. Salted nuts, however, are another matter…
This year, with 4 guests over the Christmas holidays and large numbers on Christmas Day, I’ve decided to make a Christmas cake. My husband is not a fan of the traditional style so I’ve opted for a golden version, which my mother does – and I think she originally got the recipe from a Josceline Dimbleby cookery book. She is an excellent food writer and at one point in the 1980s most dinner parties I went to dished up a Josceline recipe along with a Delia Smith one.
The total weight of the dried fruit is 650g, of which about a 1/3rd is apricot – my Mother varies the rest according to what she can get hold of, but never raisons or sultanas. I used the following mixture:
225g dried apricot
100g dried cherries
100g glace cherries
50g crystallized or stem ginger
150g candied orange peel
25g candied angelica
1 rounded tablespoon thick honey (or 2 tablespoons runny honey)
200g caster sugar
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
125g ground almonds
5 medium size free range eggs, beaten
125g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
100g walnuts or pecans
The day before you want to make the cake, chop the larger pieces of fruit to roughly the same size as the candied peel, and put the mixture into bowl. Dissolve the honey in the brandy over a low heat and then pour over the fruit. Cover and leave everything to soak overnight in a cool place.
Next day, butter and line with baking parchment a 9″/24cm spring-form cake tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/350F/180C, preferably with the fan turned off as a fan heated oven can make a cake cook too quickly on the outside and this cake has to bake for quite a long time.
Beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy then add lemon rind and ground almonds. Next gradually pour in the beaten eggs to the mixture while you beat it followed by the lemon juice, flour and salt. Lastly, stir in the dried fruits and chopped nuts. The cake mixture should just drop from a spoon, if it doesn’t add a bit more brandy. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, then wrap a double layer of brown paper round it, securing with a piece of string – it helps to have a second set of fingers to do this. Bake for 1 and 3/4 hours: after 40 minutes or so cover the top of the cake with parchment paper to stop it colouring too quickly; for the final 30 minutes turn heat down to Mark1/275F/140C. Allow the cake to cool in the tin before removing the paper. It is now ready for decoration if your family like marzipan – mine don’t. Deep sigh.