Our make and mature Christmas cake recipe calls for some planning ahead - make in advance and leave to mature to perfection.
You should get the pre-soaking ingredients ready the night before you make the cake.
For the pre-soaking:
- 400g currants
- 200g sultanas
- 200g raisins
- 50g chopped glacé cherries
- 100g mixed chopped mixed peel
- 150ml brandy or Armagnac, or orange juice and cranberry juice
For the cake:
- 225g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 level teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
- 225g cane sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon black treacle or molasses
- 225g butter or nut butter
- 50g chopped almonds (skin on)
- Zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
For feeding and topping
- Armagnac or brandy to 'feed' the cake
- 100g whole almonds (only if you don’t intend to ice the cake)
- The night before, put all the dried fruit in a bowl and mix them with the brandy, cover with a cloth and leave them to soak for a minimum of 12 hours.
- When you’re ready to cook the cake, pre-heat the oven to 140°C, gas mark 1.
- Sift the flour, salt and spices into a very large mixing bowl and then add the sugar, eggs, treacle and butter and beat with an electric hand whisk until everything is smooth and fluffy. Gradually fold in the pre-soaked fruit mixture, chopped nuts and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.
- Transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly. If you don’t intend to decorate the cake with marzipan and icing, place the almonds gently on top of the cake mixture.
- Finally, wrap the outside of the cake tin in foil or brown paper for extra protection. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 hours until it feels springy in the centre when lightly touched. Check after 4 hours, not before. It may need a little extra cooking; test by putting in a wooden skewer.
- Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then place it onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
- When the cake has cooled, ‘feed’ it by making small holes in the top and bottom with a cocktail stick and spooning in a couple of tablespoons of Armagnac or brandy, then wrap it in parchment-lined foil and store it in an airtight tin.