Christmas Cake

Covered with almond paste and iced in a simple style, this rich fruit Christmas cake looks impressive. It should be prepared at least one month ahead to allow the flavours to develop.

Christmas Cake

Ingredients

For the cake:
  • 1 cup (225 g) butter
  • 1 1⁄2 cups (280 g) brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups (250 g) plain flour, sifted
  • 3 cups (375 g) sultanas
  • 2 cups (300 g) currants
  • 3 cups (375 g) seedless raisins, roughly chopped
  • 2 cup (420 g) glacé cherries, cut in halves
  • 3⁄4 cup (140 g) mixed candied peel, chopped
  • 3⁄4 cup (80 g) ground almonds
  • finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1⁄3 cup (80 ml) rum whisky or brandy, for sprinkling over the cake before icing
For the almond paste:
  • 4 1/2 cups (455 g) ground almonds
  • 1 1⁄2 cup (185 g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 1⁄2 cup (345 g) caster sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence or vanilla essence
  • 3 tablespoon apricot jam, heated and sieved
For the royal icing:
  • 3 cups (375 g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 4 eggwhites
  • 1 tablespoon glycerine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Preparation: Cake

  1. Line the base and sides of a 23 cm round cake tin with a double thickness of greaseproof paper.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until very light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well after each addition. As there is a larger proportion than normal of eggs to the other ingredients in this recipe, the mixture will curdle a little, but do not worry.
  3. Fold in the flour and mix in the dried fruit, glacé cherries, chopped peel, ground almonds and the grated orange and lemon rinds.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 3 1/2–4 hours, or until a warmed skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.
  5. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 1 hour, then carefully turn it out on a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
  6. Without removing the baking paper, wrap the cold cake in plastic wrap, then overwrap it in foil. Put the wrapped cake into an airtight container and store in a cool, dry, airy cupboard until you are ready to ice it.

Almond paste

Preparation and icing time: 1 hour
Drying time: 24 hours
  1. Mix the ground almonds with the sifted icing sugar and the caster sugar. Add egg yolks and the almond or vanilla essence and mix to form a soft, but not sticky, paste. Smooth by kneading very briefly on a work surface lightly sifted with icing sugar.
  2. Remove cake from its wrappings and place upside-down in the centre of a 30-cm round, gold or silver cake board, or on a cake stand, if preferred.
  3. Using a fine, clean skewer, make several holes in the base of the cake; insert the skewer to a depth of about 4 cm. Spoon rum, whisky or brandy over the base of the cake and allow it to gradually seep into the holes.
  4. Roll out the almond paste to a neat round about 33-cm in diameter. Turn cake right side up and brush all over with the warm, sieved apricot jam.
  5. Carefully lift the paste onto the cake; smooth it evenly over the top and down the side, pressing it gently but flrmly into position. Trim off any excess paste from the base. Smooth paste with a palette knife.
  6. Leave cake, uncovered, in a cool, dry place for 24 hours to allow the paste to dry completely before adding the icing.

Royal icing

Preparation and icing time: 1 hour
Drying time: 24 hours
  1. Place sifted icing sugar and the eggwhites in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth, white and fluffy; beat in the glycerine and lemon juice.
  2. Spoon 3 tablespoons of icing mixture onto the cake; spread evenly over the top only. Using a clean metal ruler, smooth the icing by pulling the ruler across the top of the cake. Trim away any excess icing. Leave overnight to dry.
  3. Put remaining icing in a clean bowl, cover the surface closely with cling wrap and refrigerate. Next day, beat the icing and coat the top of the cake again; smooth icing as before.
  4. Spread remaining icing around the side of the cake; let a little come up onto the top. Use a palette knife to work icing up into attractive peaks and swirls.
  5. Leave icing to dry overnight. Decorate with your choice of Christmas ornaments.

Serves: 12
Preparation: 1 hour
 

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