|"Cake, cake.... did someone say cake?"|
You can start to make this cake as early as August - but I'm never that organised! Ideally, to allow the flavours to develop to the max, soak the fruit in August and September; make the cake in the first week of October then store for 3 months, decorate in the week before the big day and enjoy in it's glory on Christmas Day!
So here's the recipe....
Ainsley's Mum's Christmas cake
Start soaking the fruit a month ahead, if possible.
Ready in 45 minutes, plus soaking, 4-5 hours baking.
Cuts into 16 slices.
Easy, can be frozen
175g/6oz glace cherries
175g/6oz mixed citrus peel
150ml/0.25 pint brandy or rum
2 tbsp sherry (optional)
2 tbsp orange juice (optional)
225g/8oz self raising flour
85g/3oz ground almonds
1 heaped tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
225g/8oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon
For the decoration
2 tbsp apricot jam
225g/8oz bought or homemade marzipan
250g/9oz white ready-to-roll icing
silver balls and ribbon, to decorate
- Put the dried fruit and peel in a bowl and pour over the brandy or rum and sherry. Mix well and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for at least a month. Stir the fruits every few weeks. If they look dry, add more booze or a splash of orange juice.
- Start making the cake once the fruits are plump. Heat the oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2. Butter a 20cm round cake tin - about 7-8 cm deep - and line the base and sides with greasproof paper. To protect the sides from burning, tie a double layer of greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin.
- Blitz the soaked fruit mixture in three batches in a food processor, blitzing the final batch only lightly to keep some bite and texture to the fruit. Mix the flour, almonds and spices in a large bowl and stir in the fruits. Don't worry if it's hard to mix.
- Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one by one. Stir into the fruit mixture bit by bit, along with the lemon zest and juice.
- Tip the mixture into the tin and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Reduce the heat to 140C/fan 120C/gas 1 and bake for 3 to 3 1/2 hours (4 hours in a gas oven). Take care it doesn't overcook. Insert a skewer deep into the cake, if it comes out clean, it's cooked. Cool slightly, remove from the tin, and cool on a wire rack.
- Store in a double layer of greaseproof paper, wrapped in foil until ready to ice. You can store the cake for up to 3 months. Make sure you "feed" the cake by making skewer holes and pouring in brandy or rum every few weeks. Wrap up the cake tightly after every "feed".
- Brush the top of the cake with jam, roll out the marzipan to fit and place it on top. Reserve a small piece of icing and roll out the rest and cover the marzipan. Roll out the reserved icing and cut out holly leaves with cutters. Gently press them on the edge of the icing, dampening under each leaf with water to secure. Decorate with silver balls and ribbon.
|Undecorated... straight from the oven!|
In step 2, I used newspaper to double wrap the cake tin (to avoid burning) as it's cheaper than greaseproof paper! And also, on this occassion I couldn't find any string (anywhere!) to secure the paper so I stapled it into a ring large enough to slip over the tin! The staples won't come into contact with the cake so don't worry!
I'll upload another picture once the cake is decorated... if only you could smell a cake through an online photograph!
For the record, I'm not related to Ainsley Harriott in any way! This recipe was published in BBC Good Food Christmas, December 2004, and advertised as "Ainsley's Mum's Christmas cake".