How To Make The Perfect Rich Christmas Cake

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I heartily recommend this soothing, nostalgic, most unchallenging activity. Gather your ingredients (the BEST candied fruit is to be had at Country Choice in Nenagh) and take your time over it this weekend. You can of course halve the quantities here for a small cake.

For two 20cm tin Christmas cakes or one large 23/25cm tin

1 night of soaking
20 minutes preparation
3 – 3 1/2 hours baking – 4 or more if one cake

1kg mixed dried fruit: currants, raisins, sultanas, apricots, figs, cranberries… (Heavy on the currants & sultanas though)
250g glacé cherries cut into 3 or 4
125g mixed chopped candied peel
8 – 10 tbsp cognac, sherry or rum – or a mixture. I used cognac & rum.
300g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp each ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg & ginger (this is quite a lot, reduce or omit as you please)
300g salted butter at room temp. (I used 200g butter & 50g olive oil for the heck of it.)
300g dark muscovado sugar
5 medium eggs
2 tbsp black treacle
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
75g mix of whole blanched almonds & walnuts, roughly chopped. (I like them halved, and you could toast these for extra flavour.)

Put the dried fruit and peel into a large bowl, douse with 2/3 of the alcohol and stir. Cover with cling film and leave to soak and plump up overnight.

Next morning, heat the oven to 150c and prepare 2 x 20cm deep-sided tins. I use Bake oGlide to line the sides and base but also grease them with butter to be safe! Wrap the tins in greaseproof paper also.

Put all the ingredients except for the nuts into the bowl of your mixer and beat well until smooth. Add the soaked fruit and mix into the batter. Make a wish!

Spoon the mixture into the tins and smooth out the surface. Wrap a couple of coins in silver foil and press them into the cake. Cover the tops with grease proof paper.

Bake for around three to three and a half hours. Less if you’re just cooking one cake, about two and a half hours. Test the cake with a skewer to see if it’s done. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Take away the protective paper, sprinkle with the rest of the alcohol and wrap tightly in greaseproof paper. Store in a dry, cool place until near to Christmas, ‘feeding’ the cake with more sherry etc. a couple of times, and letting it mature.

See you in December for the marzipan and icing!

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