It has definitely been a year of Firsts for me. In November I noticed everyone on Facebook posting their pics of their homemade Christmas cakes, so I thought, why not! I had a little google and found a Mary Berry recipe for a Christmas Cake – you can’t go wrong with Mary Berry can you?
I made it with a few Emma-alterations and then waited with baited breath for the new few weeks, hoping and praying that it would be moist and not taste burnt. I regularly fed it with brandy, then 2 weeks before Christmas, I decorated it and looked at it for a couple more weeks. Christmas Eve was the moment of truth – had it worked? I cut into at a Christmas Eve party, and had a piece – it was soooo good and I was truly relieved and elated at the same time. It had worked! So I can confidently share my version of this classic recipe for a fantastic Christmas Cake. The longer in advance you make it, the better it will be.
- 175g (6 oz) raisins
- 350g (12 oz) glace cherries, rinsed, thoroughly dried and quartered
- 500g (1lb 2oz) currants
- 350g (12oz) sultanas (Put in your own variation of fruit and nuts according to personal taste, as long as it makes up to the same weight)
- 150ml (¼ pint) brandy, plus extra for feeding
- Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
- 250g (9oz) butter, softened
- 250g (9oz) light muscovado sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 tbsp black treacle
- 75g (3oz) blanched almonds, chopped
- 75g (3oz) self-raising flour
- 175g (6oz) plain flour
- 1½ tsp mixed spice
To finish and decorate your Christmas cake:
- About 3tbsp apricot jam, sieved and warmed
- Icing sugar
- 675g shop-bought marzipan
- Packet royal icing mix to cover 23cm/9in cake or any icing you fancy!
For the cake, place all the dried fruit, including the cherries, into a large mixing bowl, pour over the brandy and stir in the orange zest. Cover with clingfilm and leave to soak for three days, stirring daily.
Grease and line a 23cm/9in deep, round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1.
Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a very large bowl and beat well (preferably with an electric free-standing mixer). Add the flour and ground spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 4-4½ hours, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after two hours, and if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little extra brandy. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place for up to three months, feeding at intervals with more brandy. (Don’t remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist.)
The week before you want to serve, begin decorating the cake.
For the covering, stand the cake upside down, flat side uppermost, on a cake board which is 5cm/2in larger than the size of the cake.
Brush the sides and the top of the cake with the warm apricot jam.
Dust a work surface with a generous covering of icing sugar and then roll out the marzipan to about 5cm/2in larger than the surface of the cake. Keep moving the marzipan as you roll, checking that it is not sticking to the work surface. Dust the work surface with more icing sugar as necessary.
Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake using a rolling pin. Gently level and smooth the top of the paste with the rolling pin, then ease the marzipan down the sides of the cake, smoothing it at the same time. If you are careful, you should be able to cover the cake with no excess marzipan to trim but, if necessary, neatly trim excess marzipan from the base of the cake with a small sharp knife. Cover the cake loosely with baking parchment and leave for a few days to dry out before adding the icing.
- Repeat the same instructions for rolling out the icing and adding it to the cake.
- Leave the cake loosely covered overnight for the icing to harden a little, then wrap or store in an airtight container in a cool place until needed.
- I had a look at Pinterest for ideas on how to decorate my cake, but in the end I just made something up! I wrapped a ribbon round the cake, securing it with pins. Then made a snowman out of left-over icing. I set him on a pool of iced water made from colouring a small bit of icing and sprinkling coloured sugar on it. Finally I cut stars out of red icing. It’s not very professional, but for my first attempt I was really pleased. Plus it tasted absolutely delicious! When it come to decorating your cake, it depends what tools you have and how creative you feel. You could just surround it with a ribbon and put a shop-bought decoration on it. It’ll still look fab 🙂
- Enjoy eating your delicious cake!