Saturday, 24 December 2016


It's Christmas Eve ladies and gentleman! You know what that means; it's time to ice your Christmas cake ready for the big day tomorrow. When I said I was preparing my cake in October a couple of guys in work looked at me like I was crazy but if you make your cake early and then soak it with the booze of your choice once a week until the 25th, you'll have a fantastically boozy fruity treat to serve as part of your Christmas spread and if you're anything like us, enough leftover to last till new year! Marzipan, icing and apricot jam at the ready? Lets go!
Now this is the recipe I've used for several years now and although it hasn't let me down yet, it is up for reinterpretation if you so wish. For one you would traditionally soak the dried fruits in brandy prior to baking but you may of noticed that I like to use Amaretto in my recipes and I've done the same here. Feel free to use brandy or any alcohol you wish if you have a preference.

The quantities of the dried fruits can also be altered if you can't find exact weights of each ingredient as long as the combined weight of them is the same so for example you could double up on raisins if you can't get hold of currants. The same can be said for the almonds which you can replace with another type of nut or the cherries could be swapped with cranberries. It's really all down to what you can get hold of and what you prefer.

My last piece of advice is to try and source your ingredients from your local market or independent food store. The quantities of the dried fruit can cost an arm and a leg when bought from supermarkets and you will need that money for presents rather than some nuts and dried fruits. If you really have to go to a supermarket try some of the smaller chains, the quality of the products are exactly the same and you can shave pounds off the cost of putting your cake together.

The recipe below will give you enough to make two large cakes. I like to make two, one for serving on Christmas Day and one you can give out slices to friends in the run up. A homemade treat always goes down well with friends and family!

Christmas Cake

1 Large Lemon
1 Large Orange
225g Dried Apricots
175g Pitted Prunes
225g Currants
225g Raisins
125g Sultanas
150ml Amaretto
175g Glace Cherries
175g Unblanced Almonds
125g Candied Peel
350g Self Raising Flour
2 Tsp Mixed Spice
1 Tsp Salt
300g Soft Unsalted Butter
300g Soft Dark Muscovado Sugar
6 Whole Eggs
4 Tbsp Black Treacle

  1. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and orange into a large bowl.
  2. Chop the apricots and prunes to around the same size as the currants and add them in to the bowl along with currants, raisins and sultanas.
  3. Pour over the amaretto and give everything a really good mix together. I find using your hands works best here!
  4. Cover with film and leave for a least 12 hours but ideally 24. Anytime between then will be plenty for all the dried fruits tosoak up the citrus juice and amaretto.
  5. After the soaking time, chop up the cherries, almonds and candied peel to the same size as the currents and give them all a good wash under cold running water. Add these into the bowl with the other dried fruits and give everything another good mix.
  6. At this point, get your oven on to 180 degrees (160 fan).
  7. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, mixed spice and salt until all combined. Leave this to one side.
  8. In a third large bowl (one large enough to hold all theingredients) beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy before adding in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the egg is combined until a runny batter is formed.
  9. Slowly fold the salty spiced flour through the sugar butter batter until well combined and no streaks of flour can be seen.
  10. Finally, add in all the boozy fruits and nuts a bit at a time and fold them into the cake mix until everything is evenly distributed. Don't chuck them all in at once or it will be anightmare trying to mix it all.
  11. Grease two 25cm cake tins and divide the batter equally between them. Level out the top of each and place them both in the oven as close together to the middle as possible (on the same shelf if you can). Bake initially for 1 hour.
  12. After one hour, reduce the heat of the oven to 160 degrees (140 fan) and cover both the cakes loosely with foil to stop them burning on the top. If they are not on the same shelf in the oven swap the cakes around at this point for an even bake.
  13. Bake the cakes for a further 1 1/2 hours until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If it doesn't, keep baking the cake and keep checking in 5 minute intervals.
  14. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in the the tins.
  15. Once the cakes have cooled completely prick the bottom of both with a fork a couple of times evenly across the bases. Pour over two tbsps more of amaretto over each cake and spread across the base with a spatula. Wrap the cakes in baking paper and then in foil and store in a cool dark place.
  16. Once a week remove the cakes and pour over another 2 tbsps of Amaretto over each, spreading across the base again to ensure the alcohol soaks into the cake evenly, cover again with paper and foil and place back in storage. Repeat this until you're ready to ice and decorate your cake the day before you will be serving or distributing your cake.
Now, come Christmas time you will be far too busy running around trying to sort out things for all the festivities so I really don't see why you should faff around making your own marzipan and icing for the cake. The ready rolled versions you can buy in supermarkets are nigh on identical taste wise and at the end of the day, the cake is the star of the show and few people will be paying much attention to whether you made your icing and marzipan from scratch.

So when your ready to decorate warm through some apricot jam in a sauce pan to loosen it up and make it easier to spread. Take the cakes out of hiding, unwrap from the foil and then brush the top of the cakes with the jam. Roll out the marzipan so that it covers the top of the cake. You can cover the sides of the cake too but I like to just to the top so that people can see the beautiful cake without cutting into it. Cut away any excess marzipan and then leave for about 1 hour to allow the marzipan to settle before rolling out the icing to a size that covers all the marzipan. Brush the marzipan lightly with cold water before placing the icing over the top of the marzipan, smooth and trim.

What you do next is entirely up to you. In the past I've covered the cake with Christmas tree sprinkles, sprayed it with silver edible spray and wrapped it with a Christmas ribbon (not all at once mind!). This year I stuck some candy canes in it! Decorate your cake however you like, with whatever you can find and whatever you can afford. Get your Christmas creative juices flowing. All that feeding of the cake with the Amaretto over time will really give the cake a boozy punch when it comes to eating which will probably finish you off and knock you out after a long Christmas day. Merry Christmas folks!

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