Last minute Christmas cake

Don't worry if you haven't made your cake weeks ahead - Jane Asher's luscious cake packed with alcohol-soaked fruits and nuts can be made as late as you like More Christmas cake recipes
By Jane Asher
Last minute Christmas cake
  • Rating:
  • Serves: Makes 1 x 20cm cake
  • Cook Time:
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes plus soaking time
  • Effort: easy

Ingredients

-

  • 750 g mixed dried fruit
  • 150 g glacĂ© cherries
  • 225 ml stout, (Guinness, for example)
  • 100 ml whiskey
  • 75 ml orange juice
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 200 g butter, slightly soft
  • 200 g muscovado sugar
  • 250 g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 75 g brazil nuts, or almonds, chopped

To cover the cake (optional)

  • 450 g marzipan
  • sifted icing sugar
  • sieved jam

Tips and Suggestions

If you like marzipan, then you need to put it onto the cake a couple of days before you intend to ice it - just to make sure that the oil from the marzipan doesn't leak through into the icing (although, if you use the white marzipan, then it's much less likely to discolour the icing, especially if you're covering the cake with ready-to-roll icing, rather than royal). You can make your own marzipan, of course, but the shop-bought white marzipan is so good - and contains nothing sinister! - that you may feel, as I do, that your time can be better used at this hectic season...

Method

1. For the cake: place the dried fruits, cherries, stout, whisky, orange juice, zest and treacle into a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Preferably, transfer to a bowl and chill overnight - but don't worry if you can't: just leave it soaking as long as you can.

2. Preheat the oven to 140C/gas 2.

3. Lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking parchment or a shaped silicone sheet.

4. Place all the remaining ingredients except the nuts in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I do mine in the electric mixer when I'm feeling lazy). Beat until smooth, then fold in the soaked fruit and the nuts.

5. Spoon into the prepared tin and level the top, making a slight dip towards the centre. Bake for 3 hours, then check and cover the top with more paper or silicone if it is over-browning. Bake for a further 30 minutes-1 hour, or until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean.

6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a rack.

7. Wrap the cake in baking parchment and then in foil, and store in a tin somewhere cool and dry until it's time to decorate it. Every couple of weeks (or more often, if you're short of time), unwrap the cake, make a few holes in the top with a skewer, spoon a little brandy or whisky over the top and let it soak in. This keeps the cake moist - and makes it taste even better. You can use orange juice if you're avoiding too much alcohol. Rewrap the cake and store.

8. To cover with marzipan: with a sharp, serrated knife, trim the top of the cake if necessary (or turn it upside down, trimming the underneath to give it a firm base) until it's flat.

9. Knead the marzipan well until soft. Roll it out on a work surface or silicone baking mat dusted with a little icing sugar. Measure the circumference and the height of the cake with a piece of string, and cut a strip of marzipan to these measurements, allowing a little extra for safety. Brush the side of the cake with a little sieved jam (apricot is traditional, but use whatever flavour you like), then roll the marzipan strip onto the rolling pin to pick it up. Hold the rolling pin upright against the side of the cake and unroll the marzipan onto it, smoothing with your hands (or a side smoother). Trim the top edge as necessary.

10. Roll out the remaining marzipan into a rough circle, slightly larger than the cake. Brush the top of the cake with jam, and then turn it upside down onto the marzipan. Trim round the edge and then turn the right way up, smoothing as necessary.

11. Wrap the cake loosely in baking parchment and leave for a day or so before icing.

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