On TV Tonight
- 20:00 - Two Greedy Italians - Puglia
- 21:00 - Hairy Bikers' Best of British - Sweet Tooth
- 22:00 - Donut Showdown - Picnic
- Prep time:
- 1 hr
- Cook time:
- 3 hrs
- one round 20 cm cake, or one 18cm square cake. Weight when cooked: 2.2kg
Show off your festive baking and make a centrepiece out of this classic Christmas cake
MethodUsing double thickness greaseproof paper, line the base and sides of either a 20cm round cake tin or an 18cm square tin. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of the tin. The paper helps absorb some of the oven heat and protects the cake from overcooking.
Mix the dried fruit, cherries, candied peel, almonds and ground almonds together. Stir in the lemon and orange rind, juices and grated apple. Leave on one side while you make the cake mixture.
Preheat the oven to 150C/gas 1-2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Sieve the flour and spices, and fold in half the flour into the cake mixture.
Stir in half the dried fruit mixture followed by the remaing flour and dried fruit. Stir in enough treacle to darken the cake. The mixture should have a soft dropping consistency. If it looks a tad dry, add a dash of brandy. Spoon into the prepared tin and make an indentation in the centre of the cake. This helps ensure an even rise.
Bake the cake for about 3 hours, until it's firm to the touch. When the cake is pierced with a skewer, it should come out clean. If it looks as if it's getting too brown in the oven, cover the surface of the cake with several layers of greaseproof paper.
Leave to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack. Don't bother taking the greaseproof paper off though.
Pierce the cooled cake with a skewer and drizzle over a spoon of brandy. Do this a couple of times while it is maturing - once a week should be enough depending on how moist you like your cake. If you can, it's a good idea to give the cake around three weeks to mature before covering it with almond paste.
To store: wrap the cake in several layers of greaseproof papaer and keep in an airtight box.
For the almond pastePlace both the sugars in a mixing bowl with the ground almonds. Lightly beat the egg yolks, almond essence, lemon juice and rum. Add enough of the egg yolk mixture to the almonds and sugar and knead to make a soft but not sticky dough.
Turn onto a surface, which has been dusted with icing sugar, and knead until smooth. If you're not using the paste straight away, keep covered with plastic wrap as it has a tendency to dry out.
To apply marzipan to a round cakeIf the cake isn't very level, turn the cake upside down and marzipan the base instead of the top. The top and sides of the cake are covered separately. Measure around the circumference of the cake using a piece of string. Brush the top with warmed and sieved apricot jam.
Dust a surface with icing sugar and roll out one-third of the marzipan for the top of the cake. Turn the cake onto the almond paste and trim away excess almond paste with a sharp knife so it fits the exact size of the cake. Turn the cake the right way again and set on a cake board.
Brush the sides of the cake with apricot jam and roll out the remaining almond paste to an oblong, the length of the piece of string. The width should be about the same hight as the cake.
Carefully roll-up the almond paste oblong and smooth onto the sides of the cake. Trim with a sharp knife so that the paste fits the shape ot the cake.
Leave the cake for about five days so that the almond paste has a chance to dry before covering with royal icing.
To apply marzipan to a square cakeIt's best to cover the top of the cake first, followed by the two opposite sides. That way you won't get sticky fingers from handling the sides of a jam-coated cake!
For the royal icingLightly whisk the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until they are just beginning to get frothy. Stir in a couple of spoons of icing sugar and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Gradually add the rest of the sugar, beating well between each addition. Stir in the glycerine - this helps stop the icing from setting rock solid.
If you fancy flat icing your cake, keep the icing fairly soft - a wooden spoon should stand upright in the icing and slowly fall to one side. For piping, you should add more icing sugar to make a stiffer icing which will hold its shape.
It's a good idea to make the icing a day before you need it and let it sit in a covered bowl overnight. This way, the air bubbles will rise to the surface and you're more likely to have a smoother finish when it comes to icing the cake.
Applying royal icingIf you'd like to go all the way, try your hand at flat icing your cake. It's easier to apply the icing in two sittings (three, if your cake is square - one stage for the top, the next two stages for icing the two opposite sides.Place a couple of tablespoons of icing over the top of the cake and spread it evenly with a palette knife to remove any lingering air bubbles. For a really smooth surface, use a ruler (which should be longer than the width of the cake). Hold the ruler at an angle (about 30 degrees), and draw the ruler steadily across the cake without using any pressure. You'll probably need two or three attempts to get it so you're happy with it. Neaten the edges for a sharp finish and let the icing dry completely for about 12 hours before applying icing to the sides of the cake.
To ice the sidesA cake icing turntable is really handy when icing the sides of a round cake. Spread the sides with royal icing and smooth it with a small palette knife.
Hold the knife at a 45 degree angle and draw the knife around the cake without applying any pressure. Most cook shops sell sugar scrapers and they're ideal for getting a smooth and professional finish and are much easier to use than a palette knife. Leave the icng to dry for about 12 hours.
For top-notch results, give your cake two coats of icing. Add a little more icing sugar to stiffen up left-over icing and use for piped decorations.
If you don't have time to make royal icing, you can always use ready-bought fondant icing.
Left-over marzipan can be coloured and moulded into festive shapes. Let them dry for a day or so before placing on the cake - that way almond oil from the paste won't stain the cake.
If the sides of your cake aren't as smooth as you'd like, buy a broad ribbon and attach it around the Christmas cake. No one will ever know what you're camouflaging!
- 450 g currants
- 200 g sultanas
- 200 g raisins
- 150 g glacé cherries, quartered
- 75 g mixed candied peel, chopped
- 100 g flaked almonds
- 50 g ground almonds
- 0.5 lemons, grated rind and juice
- 1 oranges, grated rind and juice
- 1 eating apples
- 275 g unsalted butter
- 275 g dark brown sugar, preferably muscovado
- 5 eggs, beaten
- 350 g plain flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 0.5 tsp mixed spice
- 2 tsp black treacle, optional, to darken the cake
- 4 tbsp Brandy or Rum brandy, to soak the cake after it's baked
For the almond paste
- 150 g icing sugar, sieved
- 150 g caster sugar
- 300 g ground almonds
- 3 large egg yolks, beaten
- 0.25 tsp almond essence
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp rum
For the royal icing
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 kg icing sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp glycerine