Ok, ok I know it’s September and usually I wouldn’t be thinking of Christmas let alone beginning to bake for it for a while but I have some excuses. 1) October, when I usually bake Christmas Cake is booking up fast, 2) I want to feed and feed the cake, 3) the generous Wm Morrisons contacted me and ask if I would like to submit a Christmas Cake recipe for their customers to try and as a thank you they would send me a big box of ingredients.
I played around with a few ideas including Guinness and fruit beer (for any regular readers of my blog this won’t surprise them one bit!) and settled on the idea of a marzipan laden cake…minus icing. This is based on the fact I’m not a big icing fan as I find the majority far too sweet. At Christmas time will gladly pick off all the icing on a Christmas Cake to be just left with the delicious marzipan and fruit cake. Now I understand that marzipan is a bit of a marmite ingredient; People either love it or hate it. I love it. The reason for soaking the fruit in orange juice rather than the traditional alcohol is that this really does enhance the taste of the fruit of the cake. The alcohol will come later!
I decided to essentially combine the succulent fruits of my Simnel Cake with the marzipan filling of a stollen and together they made a delicious cake that looks a bit like a Dundee Cake, but smells of sweet, sweet marzipan. The aroma in the kitchen as I was baking this cake was amazing. Due to the amount of ingredients crammed into such a small cake along with the juicy fruit it did take longer than a usual fruit cake to bake. For a change we are planning to start eating this in early December and not leave it until Christmas Day when by then you begin to become thoroughly sick of anything too heavy & fruit laden.
Ideally a Christmas cake should be made no later than 1 week before it is needed. The longer the cake is left the more it matures and the flavours develop. If stored correctly Rich fruit cakes can last for up to a year.
Maybe I should start a trend – Christmas Cakes aren’t just for Christmas…
Christmas Marzipan Cake
Makes a 18cm round / 15cm square cake
100ml orange juice
50g dried cranberries
50g dried apricots, quartered
50g dates, stoned & quartered
50g glace cherries, halved
50g mixed peel
110g butter, softened
90g muscovado sugar (or soft dark brown sugar)
250g plain flour
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
50g flaked almonds
1 tsp almond extract
1 tbsp marmalade
1 tbsp black treacle (this gives the cake both taste & colour)
200g marzipan cubed & frozen (you can find my recipe for it here)
whole almonds for decoration
Rum, brandy or whisky for glazing
1) Before making a start on the cake soak all of the fruit in the orange juice overnight and make sure the cubed marzipan is in the freezer.
2) Line grease and line your tin with both baking parchment and greaseproof paper. For good instructions on how to do this pop over to dear Delia. Preheat oven to 150oc.
3) Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time to stop the mixture curdling. If it does begin to curdle stir in a handful of the flour. Once eggs have been added stir in the almond extract, marmalade & treacle.
4) Next, stir in the remaining ingredients alternating between the marzipan, fruit and flour. Mix until well combined. If the mixture becomes too stiff to mix add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture.
5) Pour into the lined tin, level the top of the cake then decorate with the almonds. Bake for 3 – 3 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean of cake mix.
6) Remove from the oven brush the cake with your chosen article then allow to cool completely in the tin. Remove from the tin and wrap in fresh greaseproof paper. Store in a preferably airtight tin or container until ready to eat.
7) Every 3-4 week make holes in the top of the cake using a skewer and feed with your chosen alcohol. I use around 50ml of alcohol per feed. Try not to over feed the cake as this can make the cake soggy, dense and a texture more akin to a Christmas Pudding.