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    Christmas Cakes

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    Christmas Cakes

    This year why not bake two Christmas Cakes? One to keep for yourself and one to cut into four smaller cakes to decorate and give as presents. All fruit cakes improve with keeping and this one is best made 2-3 months before Christmas Day. Soaking the fruit first ensures that the cake is beautifully moist.

    • Christmas

    Ingredients

    • The cake
    • 1 x 500g pack Waitrose Australian Sultanas
    • 250g Cape raisins
    • 1 x 250g pack Waitrose Ready to Eat Apricots, quartered
    • 1 x 170g tub Waitrose Cut Mixed Peel
    • 1 x 200g tub Waitrose Glacé Cherries, halved
    • 1 x 100g pack Haven Glacé Pineapple
    • 1 x 100g pack Waitrose Slivered Almonds
    • 1 x 100g Waitrose Walnut Pieces
    • Juice and grated rind of 1 orange
    • 100ml Waitrose 3 Year Old French Brandy
    • 250g unsalted butter, softened
    • 200g Waitrose Dark Brown Muscovado Sugar
    • 5 medium eggs, beaten
    • 300g plain flour, sieved
    • To flat ice a whole 20cm square cake you will need
    • 2 x 500g packs Waitrose White or Golden Marzipan
    • 1 x 1kg pack Renshaw's Regalice
    • 3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
    • 30cm cake board
    • 4 x 15cm cake boards
    • To marzipan and ice 3 x 10cm square cakes, you will need
    • 1 x 500g pack Renshaw's Regalice colours
    • 2 x 500g packs Waitrose White or Golden Marzipan
    • 3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
    • 1 x 1kg pack white regalice

    Method

    1. Place all the fruit and nuts in a large bowl, stir in the orange juice, rind and brandy. Cover and allow it to stand overnight.
    2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well between each addition. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a little of the flour.
    3. Add the soaked fruit, nuts and any liquid and stir well. Fold in the flour.
    4. Prepare a 20cm square cake tin by lining the base and sides with three thicknesses of greaseproof paper cut so they come 5cm above the edge of the tin. Spoon the mixture in, spreading it evenly and making sure there are no air pockets. Level the top. Tie a double band of brown paper round the outside of the tin.
    5. Stand the tin on several sheets of newspaper or brown paper and place in a preheated oven at 150°C, gas mark 2, for 3½-4 hours or until a fine warmed skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cover with greaseproof paper during cooking if the cake begins to brown too much.
    6. Leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack. If a dome forms during cooking, neatly slice off the top for a smooth surface.
    7. Icing the cakes
    8. Turn the cake upside down on the board. Brush the top and sides with jam. Roll out the marzipan to 8mm thick.
    9. Place over the cake and smooth into place, moulding carefully at the corners. Trim off any excess around the base. Leave for 24 hours.
    10. Brush a very thin layer of jam over the marzipan. Roll out the Regalice into a square 5mm thick. Cover the cake as you did with the marzipan and decorate.
    11. Cut the second cake into quarters, and cover three with marzipan and icing

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    Cook's tips

    'Feeding' the cake as it matures ensures that it will be lovely and moist at Christmas time. Every 2-3 weeks, prick the surface with a fine skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp Waitrose Brandy.

    Store in a cool dry place, wrapped in a greaseproof paper and then a double thickness of foil.

    When rolling out and making your icing decorations, use cornflour to dust the work surface rather than icing sugar. If pleats or folds occur when you are covering the cake, blend them in by rubbing gently in a circular motion with the palm of your hand.

    Variation

    Glazed fruit and nuts
    Brush the top of the plain 10cm cake with apricot glaze. Decorate with dried fruits, glacé fruits and nuts. Brush with gently warmed and sieved apricot jam to glaze. Secure a broad ribbon close to the base with a jam or water icing.

    Tying a bow
    Use 2 metres wired ribbon. Cut two pieces to go across the cake and secure the ends with water icing. For the bow, make two loops, leaving a tail, and bind again. Cover the centre with a band of ribbon and secure with double-sided tape. Trim the tails. Fix the bow with tape in the centre of the crossed ribbons.

    Rope edging
    Using 75g of white Regalice or 40g each of two different colours, roll out two 45cm lengths. Starting at the centre and working outwards, twist them together to make a rope. Place around the base of the cake and gently press the ends together to secure.

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