Christmas cake

I absolutely love making our Christmas cake each year and have always used the same recipe, although this year I didn’t have any brandy so it’s flavoured with rum. And not just any rum mind you, it’s Don Papa rum so the cake has all kinds of vanilla, honey, and cinnamon flavours wafting around it. None of us are actually interested in eating the icing, it’s there purely for decoration purposes – really we just want the cake and (especially) the marzipan. Yummo.

Discombobulated reindeer

Ingredients

Cake:

1 kg dried mixed fruit

350g glacé cherries

200ml brandy (or rum)

Zest of 2 oranges

250g soft butter

250g light muscovado sugar

4 large eggs

1 tbsp black treacle

75g self raising flour

175g plain flour

1 tbsp mixed spice

Icing:

2 egg whites

450g icing sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp glycerine

500g marzipan

2 tbsp apricot jam

Method

  1. Put the dried fruit, orange zest and brandy into a container with a lid, shake well to mix and leave to soak for 24 hours minimum, giving it a shake every now and then.
  2. Rinse, dry and halve the glacé cherries.
  3. Heat your oven to 140C, grease and line a 20-23cm springform tin.
  4. Put the butter, sugar, eggs and treacle into a large bowl or freestanding mixer, and beat well until combined and smooth.
  5. Add in the flours and mixed spice and stir together with a spatular.
  6. Stir in the boozy dried fruit and glacé cherries, then scrape the whole lot into the prepared tin. Give it a little shimmy to level the top.
  7. Bake for 4 hours until firm and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Check after 2 hours and if the cake is looking like a perfect colour then cover the top with tin foil for the rest of the cooking time.
  8. Remove from the oven, and leave to cool in the tin before turning out.
  9. Heat the jam in a bowl in the microwave, then brush the top and sides of the cake.
  10. Roll out the marzipan, and using your cake tin as a guide cut out a circle 2cm bigger than the top surface of your cake. Place onto the cake.
  11. Then cut a long wide strip to wrap around the edge of the cake, and stick that in place – then use your hands to merge together the joins, trimming around the base if needs be. There’s no extra marks here for tidy marzipan, and no marzipan police, so you don’t need to be too precious about it.
  12. Leave the cake for 24 hours to dry out the marzipan.
  13. Make up the icing, by whisking the egg whites until firm using a handheld electric whisk, then whisking in the icing sugar (sieve it!) slowly until the whole lot is combined and glossy.
  14. Keep whisking as you add in the lemon juice and glycerine.
  15. Spread all over the cake using a palette knife, adding artistic snow drift swirls, or rough it up into peaks, or keep it completely smooth – there’s no rules here.
  16. Decorate at this point too, before the icing sets.
  17. Leave to dry out overnight then start eating it. I see no point in waiting for actual Christmas Day!

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