Making your own Christmas cake is such a rewarding task, becoming part of the pre-Christmas tradition, and can be made at least a month in advance. This recipe is for a 20cm (8in) round cake or an 18cm (7in) square one – perfect for Christmas and beyond.


INGREDIENTS
  • 800g seedless raisins or sultanas (or a mixture of the two)
  • 100g glacé cherries, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 50g finely chopped mixed peel
  • 250ml brandy (or strong Earl Grey tea)
  • 225g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon mixed spice
  • 225g softened unsalted butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50g chopped almonds
  • 1 dessertspoon black treacle
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • Grated zest of one orange


Method
  • Two days before you plan to make the cake, place all the dried fruit and peel in a bowl and mix in the brandy (or tea, if using). Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave to soak for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Grease and line a 20cm round (or 18cm square). Tie a double layer of brown paper or newspaper around the tin so that the top is 3cm higher than the top of the tin. Cut a double layer of paper to place under the tin when in the oven. Cut a circle (or square) from a sheet of baking parchment so that it is 2cm wider than the tin and cut a 2cm hole in the middle. This is all to prevent the heat of the oven overcooking the outer layer of cake.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 140°C.
  • Sieve the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Beat the eggs and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoon at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a little flour and continue beating.
  • When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices.
  • Stir in the steeped fruit and peel, together with any remaining liquid, the nuts, the treacle and the grated lemon and orange zest.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepped cake tin, and spread it out evenly with a spatula. Place the sheet of baking parchment with the hole over the top, but don’t let it touch the cake mixture.
  • Bake the cake on its paper base on the lower shelf of the oven for four and a half hours, making sure you don’t open the door until at least four hours have passed.
  • To test for ‘done-ness’, remove the top piece of paper and insert a metal skewer into the centre of the cake. If the cake is cooked, the skewer will emerge looking quite clean. If the cake is under-done, the skewer will have some semi-cooked cake mixture on it in which case simply return the cake to the oven for another 15 minutes. Repeat the skewer test until the cake is done.
  • When the cake is cold, store in its baking tin wrapped well in double greaseproof paper. During storage, but before you ice the cake, feed it intermittently with brandy. To do this, strip off the lining papers, make a few extra holes in the top with a skewer and pour a few teaspoons of brandy in to soak into the cake. Repeat this at intervals for a week or two.


For the icing
  • For the best quality icing, we recommend Renshaw, which comes ready to roll and gives a professional finish. It comes in white for a classic look, but also a rainbow of colours if you are feeling like changing things up a bit (unicorn Christmas cake anyone?).
  • First, brush some warmed and sieved apricot jam all over the cooled cake. Roll out (or use ready rolled) marzipan to a circle large enough to cover the whole of the cake plus a little extra.
  • Using the rolling pin to transport the marzipan, carefully drape over the cake and smooth down the sides. Cut off the excess and leave, uncovered, in the fridge for up to a week to dry out.
  • When you’re ready to ice the cake, brush the marzipan with a little water to help the icing stick. Roll out the icing and drape over the cake just as you did with the marzipan, easing it down the sides. If you own an icing polisher, use this to polish the icing to a flawless sheen.
  • To decorate, apply your theme with gusto. Whether you choose traditional, kitsch or contemporary styling, have fun and enjoy the results!

While you are waiting for your cake to mature, why not tackle the Christmas gift shopping - our gift vouchers for half or one day cookery courses, which the recipient will get to choose at their leisure, are perfect for foodies and those looking for a little added culinary confidents. Or visit our shop for a host of other foodie-inspired gifts.