- Serves: 15-20
- Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Effort: medium
For the fruit
- 225 g sultanas
- 225 g raisins
- 125 g pitted dates, chopped
- 50 g currants
- 125 g chopped mixed peel
- 50 g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
- 125 ml brandy or whiskey
For the cake
- 275 g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 275 g light soft brown sugar
- 5 eggs
- 75 g ground almonds
- 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
- 275 g plain flour
- 2 tsp mixed spice
For the almond paste
- 450 g ground almonds
- 450 g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp brandy or whiskey
- A couple of drops of almond extract or almond essence, (not more than 1/8 tsp)
- icing sugar, for dusting
For brushing the cake
- 1 small egg white, lightly beaten
- 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Tips and Suggestions
You can ice the cake with royal or fondant icing after step 10 if you prefer, then skip the last two steps.
Tie a ribbon round the finished cake to make it a Christmas centrepiece.
1. For the fruit: Place the dried fruit, mixed peel and crystallised ginger in a bowl, pour over the brandy or whiskey and allow to soak for at least 2 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2. Line a 23cm cake tin with baking parchment and wrap a collar of brown paper or a double layer of baking parchment around the outside to help prevent the cake from drying out as it bakes.
3. For the cake: Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time and beating well between each addition.
4. Stir in the orange zest and ground almonds, then sift in the flour and mixed spice and fold in gently. Fold in the soaked dried fruit, together with any brandy or whiskey left in the bowl, and transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin. Bake in the oven for 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
5. Cover the cake, still in the tin, with foil and allow to cool. Once the cake has cooled, carefully tip it out of the tin and wrap in foil until you are ready to cover it with almond paste. The cake will keep like this for a couple of months.
6. For the almond paste: Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. To make the almond paste, first mix the ground almonds and sugar together in a bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg, add the brandy or whiskey and the almond essence or extract, then add to the dry ingredients and mix to a stiff paste - you may not need to add all the egg mixture.
7. Sprinkle a work surface with icing sugar, turn the almond paste out of the bowl and gently knead until smooth. Remove the foil and baking parchment from the cake. Take about half of the almond paste and place it on a work surface dusted with icing sugar. Roll out until it is slightly bigger than the cake itself and about 1cm thick.
8. Brush the top of the cake with the lightly beaten egg white and turn it upside down onto the almond paste. Cut around the edge of the cake, then carefully turn the cake the right side up with the lid of almond paste attached to the top. Alternatively, you could cut the almond paste out using the cake tin as a template, and place it on top of the cake.
9. Measure the circumference of the cake with a piece of string. Roll out one long strip of almond paste (or two shorter strips joined together) the same length as the string, and trim both short edges to the same height as the cake.
10. Brush the cake and the almond paste lightly with egg white and press the strip against the sides of the cake, but without overlapping or there will be a bulge. Trim away any overlapping pieces of almond paste, then use a straight-sided tumbler to even the edges and smooth the join. Rub the cake well with your hand to ensure a nice flat surface.
11. Carefully place the cake on a large, greased baking sheet. Roll out the remainder of the almond paste to about 5mm thick and cut out shapes in the paste, such as Santa Claus using sugar paste cutters, if you like. Brush the whole surface of the cake with the beaten egg yolks and stick the shapes on top and around the sides, if you wish.
12. Brush the shapes with egg yolk. Bake the cake for 10-20 minutes (not too near the top of the oven or it may burn) until it is golden and toasted. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then carefully transfer to a serving plate or cake board.
Text © Rachel Allen 2012. Photography © Philip Webb 2012.
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