Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas cake

Fruit cake is perfectly, if a little matter-of-factly, named because it is fruit and cake. I love the way that this type of cake is so packed with fruit that it’s as if the cake is only there to hold all the fruit together; it’s definitely the supporting artiste!

I like this Australian Women’s Weekly recipe as you don’t particularly have to soak the fruit in advance, nor do you have to make the cake weeks ahead of Christmas for it to mature. However, it tastes like you’ve been nurturing it and feeding it for months!

This was the first fruit cake I’ve made where I didn’t have arm and shoulder ache all day. Why? Because the CCBF (Caked Crusader’s Boyfriend) stepped forward to demonstrate his cake mixing prowess. He also cut the glace cherries.

Unlike previous years I have made the almond paste and icing. Usually I don’t bother with this but the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) requested it. To strike a happy balance between paste and icing haters and lovers, I only put it on the top.

Here’s the almond paste:

The cake won’t be covered in fondant icing until later next week, or cut until Christmas day so I’ll revisit this post with some photos then.

I used some leftover almond paste to make my reindeer decorations:

You get a lot of slices out of a big cake like this:

For the cake:
500g sultanas
375g raisins
140g glace cherries, chopped coarsely
110g currants
2 tablespoons marmalade
125ml rum or brandy, plus 2 extra tablespoons
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
200g dark brown sugar
4 eggs
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice

For the almond paste (this quantity will comfortably cover the top of a 20cm cake. To completely cover the cake i.e. the sides too, double these quantities):

175g ground almonds
90g icing sugar
90g caster sugar
2 eggs, medium size – separate one of them
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon brandy

For the fondant icing (Delia Smith gives this quantity to cover a 20cm cake. I found it sufficient to cover the top of my cake - in other words, I reckon she's being mean. If you want to cover the whole cake consider doubling the quantities):

450g icing sugar
1 egg white, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoon liquid glucose


- Combine all the fruit, marmalade and the rum/brandy in a large bowl and leave to stand for as long as possible.

- Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/300°F/Gas mark 2.

- Line a 23cm round springform tin with three layers of baking paper, ensuring that the baking paper comes up 5cm above the height of the tin – this will help to bake the cake evenly and stop it browning too much.

- Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and well combined. It won’t ever become fluffy when you’re using dark sugar.

- Beat in the orange and lemon rind.

- Add the eggs, one at a time beating until well combined. If it starts to curdle add some of the flour.

- Stir in the flour and spice.

- Stir in the bowl of fruit making sure you scrape out all the booze!

- Spoon the cake into the prepared tin and level the surface.

- Bake for approximately 3 ½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. I’d check the cake after 3 hours as mine was done.

- As soon as the cake comes out of the oven brush the additional 2 tablespoons of rum/brandy over it then, wrap the tin tightly in foil. This means that the cake will steam as it cools making it ultra moist.

- The next day, remove the cake from the tin and wrap it in baking paper and foil, storing it in an airtight container. It will keep like this for months.

- Make the almond paste and cover the cake with it a week before you top it off with the fondant. This is because the almond paste will ooze almond oil and you don’t want this bleeding into your snowy white fondant.

- Place the icing and caster sugar into a bowl and stir in the whole egg and egg yolk.

- Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water – ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water – and whisk for approximately 10 minutes or until the mixture is thick and fluffy.

- Stand the bowl in 5cm of cold water (I did this in my sink) and whisk in the almond extract and brandy.

- Whisk until the mixture cools.

- Stir in the ground almonds and knead to form a paste. It will be very sticky at first but let it stand for 5-10 minutes and it firms up.

- Dust a sheet of baking paper with icing sugar and place the paste on it. Dust the paste with more icing sugar before placing a further sheet of baking paper on top.

- Roll out until you can cover the top of your cake.

- Brush the egg white that you didn’t use earlier over the cake. Place the cake face down onto the paste and using the cake as a guide, cut around it.

- Turn the cake back to the right way up and you should have a very neat topping of almond paste.

- Any leftover paste can be re-rolled to make decoration or simply just eat it – cook’s perks!

- Wrap the cake back up and let the almond paste settle down for a week before you ice it.

- To make the fondant icing place the icing sugar in a bowl and make a well in the centre, into which place the egg white, vanilla and glucose.

- Stir so that you gradually incorporate the icing sugar into the wet ingredients.

- When it is too stiff to stir, turn it out and knead until it becomes completely smooth. If it’s sticky add a dusting of icing sugar; too dry wet your fingers under the tap.

- Roll the fondant out on baking paper that has been dusted with icing sugar.

- Cover the cake as soon as possible and then store in an airtight tin.

- You can make the fondant up to 3 days in advance of rolling it out but then must keep it wrapped up and in the fridge. (The iced cake shouldn’t be refrigerated).

- Decorate as desired.

- Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.


Katie said...

The cake looks wonderful. I'm so impressed you made your own marzipan, I've never attempted this. I bet it tastes wonderful.

Cakelaw said...

What a handsome looking cake. Please do share a photo once it's iced so we can see it in all its glory.

Verity said...

Where did you get the cute reindeer cutters? Such a beautiful design

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Verity

Mr CC bought it for me as an early Christmas present - it was from Trevor Mottram's an awesome kitchenware shop in Tunbridge Wells. I haven't seen them anywhere else but I can't think they're exclusive to the shop

Happy baking

Verity said...

I think I've finally found some cutters that will do. I spend SUCH a fortune on my baking addiction. Do you mind me asking another question - how to do the eyes?!

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Verity

I bought the eyes ready made. Not sure if you're in the US, UK or somewhere else but they're widely available online as this google search shows:

I guess they would also be pretty easy to make with sugar paste but probably rather time consuming!

Hope this helps and you make the best christmas cake ever!

Happy baking

Verity said...

I have ordered some from ebay - I hope they will be the right size. The cake is to take to my inlaws who have high hopes after my wedding cake - I shall put a pic on my blog and post the link here when it's done (Christmas eve probably - haha!) Thanks for your help and just to say that I love reading your blog every week.