This Christmas cake will be just as good after a day, and better than most after a week. If you’ve not yet made a Christmas cake this year, you can’t use the excuse that you’ve not got enough time. The truth is that if you follow most recipes for this particular festive centrepiece, you’ll end up with something that is horribly dry. Thus, it needs those months of adding alcohol for the cake to be remotely edible by the time you hit the 25th. Yes, the dried fruit adds a lot of bulk and this cake will need a lot longer in the oven than your average Victoria Sponge. But even the famed Mary Berry recommends a ridiculous amount of baking time – over 4 hours, in her case. You’ll probably need less than half that. Oh no I didn’t…
First, preheat your oven to 140C/120C fan/Gas 1. Seek out a 7 or 8-inch cake tin and grease it with plenty of butter. Then, cut out a disc of baking paper for the bottom and strips for the sides, and line them too. Finally, grease over your baking paper. This must not stick.
In a large bowl, place your fruit and finely grated orange zest and then drizzle on your preferred tipple. It doesn’t matter that your fruit is pre-soaked – it can take more.
In a different bowl, weigh your sugar and butter. Cream these together with an electric mixer for about 10 minutes, or until very light and fluffy. Add your eggs, one at a time and mixing well after each addition. Finally, add your flour, almonds and mixed spice and fold these into your mix until lumpy. Don’t mix any more than you need to.
Add your extra-soaked fruit into your cake mix, then slowly mix everything together until roughly combined. Pour your mix into your prepared tin and smooth it out until flat. Place this in your oven and bake for an hour to an hour and a half, maybe two if you’re unlucky. Keep checking regularly. If it wobbles, it isn’t done. If it doesn’t, stick a skewer in and check it comes out clean.
Leave your cake to cool, keeping it in the tin. Once cool (it might take all night), skewer it all over, then make the first feed. Do this by making a really small, but really weak, cup of tea. You only want a ‘shot’ worth – judge this yourself; technically 25ml. Add to this your honey and marmalade and another ‘shot’ of brandy or whisky. Don’t add too much.
Drizzle your cake (still in the tin) with your feed. You might not need all of it – press down on the surface and it feels boggy or soggy, stop. At this point, remove the cake from the tin (keeping the paper on) and place in a cool, dry cupboard. You can wrap it in cling film to keep it extra moist.
Your cake is ready to be iced, but could do with another couple of feeds. These can be done at 3 days and 7 days from baking, or more spaced out if you’ve got longer. A few days before Christmas, it’s time to do the topping. Start by turning the cake upside down – the flat bottom makes the finish on your icing a whole lot smoother.
First, heat up your jam slowly in a pan over a medium heat until it’s a bit less viscous. Brush this over your upside-down cake so the marzipan sticks. Roll out your marzipan using icing sugar to stop it sticking – make sure your rolling pin is impeccable, as any wee bits will cause dimples. Lay the marzipan over and trim around the edges.
Like before, brush your marzipan with your jam. Roll out your fondant icing using your icing sugar until it is a large enough circle to cover the marzipan, then lay over the top. Again, trim around the bottom edge.
To finish, sprinkle icing sugar over your cake and ‘wash your hands’ using icing sugar, to dry them out. User these dry sugary hands to rub all over your cake vigorously, using the icing sugar like sandpaper. This is a great way to a super-smooth finish. You can get rid of any seams this way. Finally, tie a ribbon or piece of tinsel around it and enjoy within a few weeks.