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    Martha's chocolate, sour cherry & amaretto fruit cake

    By Martha Collison

    • Christmas
    • Preparation time: 30 minutes + cooling + cake marinating + decorating
    • Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours
    • Total time: 2 hours 15 minutes to 2 hours 30 minutes + cooling + cake marinating

    Makes: 20cm fruit cake Serves: 25 - 30

    Ingredients

    FOR THE CAKE
    250g prunes
    4 x 60g packs Forest Feast sour cherries
    125g raisins
    100g chopped dates
    50g mixed peel
    200g butter
    200g dark brown muscovado sugar
    150ml golden syrup
    125ml amaretto
    200g self-raising flour
    100g ground almonds
    1 tsp mixed spice
    4 tbsp cocoa powder
    3 large Waitrose British Blacktail Free Range Eggs, beaten

    FOR THE CHOCOLATE MARZIPAN
    200g whole almonds
    80g golden caster sugar
    100g icing sugar
    50g cocoa powder
    1 medium Waitrose British Blacktail Free Range Egg, plus 1 medium egg yolk

    FOR THE DECORATION
    2 tbsp cherry or apricot jam
    2 tbsp amaretto
    500g white fondant icing
    Red and green gel food colouring
     

    Method

    1. Preheat the oven to 170ºC, gas mark 3. Line the base and sides of a 20cm round cake tin (or 18cm square) with a double layer of baking parchment. Wrap the outside of the tin with brown parcel paper and tie with kitchen string. This helps stop the cake’s sides cooking too quickly.

    2. Place the fruits, butter, sugar, golden syrup and amaretto into a saucepan over a medium heat. Heat gently, stirring all the time until the butter melts. Simmer for 10 minutes, then leave to cool for 20 minutes.

    3. Combine the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice and cocoa powder in a small bowl. Beat the eggs into the now-cooled fruit mix, and stir in the dry ingredients until well combined. Pour into the tin and bake for 1¾–2 hours, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

    4. Pierce holes on the top of the cake and feed with a few tablespoons of amaretto brushed over the top with a pastry brush. Leave to dry overnight if decorating immediately, however this cake will improve with age so I recommend wrapping in clingfilm, then tin foil, and storing for weeks or months. Every fortnight, feed it with more alcohol. 

    TO DECORATE THE CAKE:

    1. Before you come to assemble the cake, make the marzipan. Blitz the almonds to a fine powder then add in the caster sugar, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Add the egg and egg yolk, and then continue to blend until the mixture comes together into one clump. Wrap the marzipan in clingfilm and chill in the fridge if you aren’t covering the cake straight away – it will keep for a week.

    2. Place the cake top down onto a cake board. It probably won’t sit completely flat, so make small sausage shapes from the chocolate marzipan and use them to fill in any gaps, so you have a smooth and even cake.

    3. Roll the marzipan into a large enough circle that will cover the top and sides of the cake between two pieces of clingfilm. Using clingfilm makes it really easy to move the thin layer over the cake when you come to assemble, and it also stops it from drying out.

    4. Heat the jam in a small saucepan until liquid, then use a pastry brush to cover the outside of the cake with a thin layer of jam.

    5. Peel the top layer of clingfilm off the marzipan, and then flip the sheet over the cake. Use your hands or a cake smoother to apply it over the top and sides of the cake, pressing firmly to make sure it sticks. When you are happy with the covering, remove the second layer of clingfilm. Allow the marzipan to dry completely before icing.

    6. Roll the fondant out into a 35cm round shape. Use a sharp knife to cut a large wiggly line around 1 half of the circle. This will form the icing drips, so try to vary the sizes of the wiggles for a more authentic look.

    7. Brush half the cake (top and sides) with amaretto, then apply the fondant icing to half the cake. Press the sides on first, and then arrange the drips until you are happy.

    8. Colour a tiny amount of the leftover fondant green, and an even smaller amount red. Make two holly leaves and three red berries, and then use a little water to stick them to the icing. The cake will keep for 1-2 months if stored wrapped loosely in foil, in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. 

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