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Christmas Cake

For me the Christmas cake is the first thing that I think about in my preparation for the Holiday season. I love how the house smells when baking the first cake of the season.

I've given my preference of fruit and nuts below but you can swap and change with your favourites or even leave out the nuts.
200g raisins
100g sultanas
100g currants
50g dried cranberries
50g dried chopped apricots
100g glace cherries, halved
Zest of 2 clementines
200g of mixed roughly chopped nuts (I use a mix of Brazil, hazelnut, almonds and pecans)
10 tablespoons of either brandy, sherry, whiskey, port, calvados  plus extra for feeding the cake
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g soft dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
250g self-raising flour
3 teaspoons mixed spice
70g mixed peel paste 

You will need a 20cm deep cake tin, greased and lined with baking parchment and the outside of the tin wrapped in a piece of brown paper tied with string.

Preheat the oven to 160˚c

Tip the dried fruit, zest and glace cherries into a large mixing bowl, pour over 8 tablespoons of brandy, cover and leave to soak for at least 48hrs up to 3 months. 

In the bowl of a free-standing mixer cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs, mixing well between each addition.

Using a large metal spoon fold the flour, nuts and spices into the mixture. Add the dried fruits and mixed peel paste mix until thoroughly combined. 

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and spread level. Bake in the bottom half of the preheated oven for 70 minutes and then turn the heat down to 150c/300f/Gas mark 2 and continue baking for a further 60-80 minutes. If the cake is browning too quickly cover the top loosely with foil. The cake is cooked when a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. 

Cool the cake in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Prick the bottom of the cake with a cocktail stick and feed with a couple of tablespoons of brandy once a week for about 3 -8 weeks.

Wrap the cake in parchment paper and a layer of tin foil. 

Feed the cake over the next few weeks before covering with marzipan and icing. 

A week before you want to ice your cake brush with 3 tbsp heated and sieved apricot jam, then roll out 750g marzipan and place over then cake, trim the edges, and smooth out all the lumps and bumps.

A week later brush with a little boiled cooled water and repeat the process with fondant icing, then decorate to your own design.