Prep 2 hrs
Cook 2 hrs
This is my own version of a Christmas fruitcake, devised after baking 3 and studying many recipes, including my mother's old-fashioned one. It has a lot of fruit, and yet still remains a cake, not just a gooey mixture of candied fruits barely held together with batter, and it has a very interesting spicy flavour - increased by the slight hotness provided by a little ground black pepper! I bake it in a 22,5 cm (9-inch) square pan, four cakes so that I can cut 3 in half to use as Christmas presents for family and friends. Could be baked in a smaller pan, I think, to make it a 'higher' cake.
- 300 g raisins
- 200 g sultanas
- 100 g currants
- 75 g candied orange peel
- 75 g candied lemon peel
- 125 g candied cherries
- 150 g candied pineapple
- 150 g candied ginger
- 9 whole candied figs (they should not be too large, you will see why)
- 75 g finely chopped blanched almonds
- 1 lemon, zest of
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons ground mixed spice (recipe follows)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cloves (optional for those who don't like such a strong flavour) (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 250 g butter
- 250 g soft brown sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1⁄2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 1⁄4 cup rum (optional) or 1⁄4 cup brandy (optional) or 1⁄4 cup sherry wine (optional) or 1⁄4 cup brandy, and sherry mixed (optional)
- 1 tablespoon coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon bark
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon allspice berry
- 1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, freed from the pods
- 1 teaspoon anise seed
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
Glaze (1 day before the cake is to be served)
- 1⁄4 cup fine apricot preserves or 1⁄4 cup berry preserves, sieved
- 4 tablespoons of the alcohol, used for the cake or 4 tablespoons orange juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Prepare the spice mix:.
- This is based on medieval spice mixes, from when the combination of fruit and spice in a sort of fruit porridge eventually evolved into Christmas cake as we know it. Freshly roast and ground spices are recommended because they taste much better.
- Measure the first 7 spices as carefully as possible, roast them in a small saucepan till they start browning and giving off a fragrant aroma. Grind them as finely as you can in a mortar and add the ground ginger and nutmeg.
- Butter and line the tin with 2 layers of baking paper. Cut and butter 2 papers to lay on top of the cake.
- Cut the cherries in half, cut the orange and lemon peel reasonably small, and cut the pineapple and ginger into larger pieces (though not so large as to make the cake difficult to cut once it is baked). Leave the green figs whole.
- Mix all the cut fruit, raisins, sultanas and currants carefully.
- Give the almonds a good whirl or two or three in the blender/food processor with 1 cup of flour. Sprinkle the resulting almond meal and the grated lemon rind over the fruit and fold it in carefully.
- Preheat the oven to 170 °C/325 °F/Gas 3.
- Sift the rest of the flour with the spices, salt and baking powder.
- Cream the butter and sugar.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Fold in the flour mixture.
- Stir in the almond extract and honey, then the fruit.
- Spoon into the tin, smooth the top with a spoon dipped in hot water and hollow out the centre slightly so that it does not rise with a peak.
- Press the whole green figs carefully right into the batter with their stem ends above, 8 around the sides and one in the middle. Cover the cake with its paper lid.
- Bake at 170 °C/325 °F/Gas 3 for one hour, then reduce the temperature to 150 °C/300 °F/Gas 2 for a further 1 - 2 hours. (2 hours if the cake is “thicker’’ – be careful of over-baking).
- Test with a straw or thin twig to see if it is done.
- Leave to cool.
- The next day turn the cake out carefully, remove the baking paper, prick the cake carefully with the testing straw and brush over with the alcohol, if used.
- Wrap in foil and store in an airtight tin until you are ready to serve it (at least 1 week). If you wish, “feed’’ the cake with a quarter cup of the appropriate alcohol once a week and rewrap carefully.
- To decorate the cake 1 day before serving:.
- Mix the strained apricot or berry preserves with the alcohol/orange juice and lemon juice. Bring it to the boil in a small saucepan and let it boil briefly to thicken.
- Brush the cake with the glaze and while it is still sticky decorate with whole nuts and glace fruit, whole or sliced.