This recipe is a firm favourite of our family and has been used for years. It is simple, can be made several months in advance but equally copes with being made 5 weeks before the big day! It is full of spices, fruit and can be as alcohol as you fancy. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients, it really is easy, I promise.
BEST EVER CHRISTMAS CAKE
225g chopped butter
1 tsp mixed spice
300g dark muscovado sugar
1000g luxury mixed dried fruit
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
125ml sherry or brandy
100g whole blanched almonds
4 large eggs
100g ground almonds
300g plain flour
Half teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Half tsp nutmeg
Put the butter, sugar, dried fruit, citrus rinds and juices as well as the alcohol in a large pan and bring slowly to the boil. Stirring until the butter has melted, then reduce the heat and let it bubble gently for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile cut a double thickness of greaseproof paper 5 cm deeper than your cake tin and long enough to wrap around the tin with a slight overlap. Grease the tin then line the base and then the sides with the greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 150ºC /fan 130º.
Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes. Meanwhile toast the whole almonds in a dry pan, when they are cool enough to handle chop them roughly. Stir in the eggs and the chopped and ground almonds into the cooled fruit mix and stir well. Set a sieve over the pan and sift the flour, baking powder and spices into the pan. Stir in gently until there are no traces of flour left.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly.
Bake for 1 hour, then reduce to 140ºc /fan 120º and bake for a further 2 hours until the cake is dark gold and firm to touch.
Test with a skewer. If it comes out clean from the centre, then it its cooked if not return to the oven for another 15 minutes. When its cooked, turn out onto a rack to cool, peeling off the paper. To store, wrap in double thickness of greaseproof paper then overwrap in foil.
You can feed the cake for a more boozy edge by stabbing the base with holes using a fine skewer and spoon 2 tablespoons of brandy over the holes until it soaks in. Rewrap and repeat weekly .
Decorate with marzipan and icing Christmas week.