macerating ingredients: (maceration is softening or breaking into pieces using a liquid).
250g finest raisins
250g finest sultanas
250g finest currants
120g finest sour cherries
110g finest natural glace cherries, halved
110g finest candied orange and lemon, finely chopped
50g almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
50g cloudy, natural apple juice
20g strong black coffee (espresso)
dash of angostura bitters (optional)
1tsp green saffron mixed spice
0.50tsp fresh black pepper, fine grind
pinch of salt
2 vanilla pods, split in two, beans scraped out, into the mix
50g black treacle
a generous slug of brandy
a generous slug of grand marnier
a slug of kirsch
250g dark muscavado sugar
300g butter, softened
5 large free range eggs
250g self-raising flour
110g bramley apples, peeled, cored and grated
zest of ½ lemon
zest of ½ orange
almond paste ingredients:
450g light muscavado sugar
450g ground almonds
2 small eggs
drop of bitter almond extract
30g grand marnier
1tsp green saffron juicy fruit blend or mixed spice
you will also need:
some icing sugar to ‘dust’
1 egg white mixed with a tiny pinch of salt to ‘stick’ the almond paste to the cake
some festive cookie cutters
2 egg yolks only, to glaze the finished cake
You’ll need: a 20cm/8in square cake tin or 23cm/9in round tin, greased, base and sides lined with a double folded sheet of baking parchment.
One week before you’re going to bake the cake, measure out the apple juice, coffee, bitters and pop them into a large saucepan or pot.
Add the rest of the ‘macerating ingredients’, but NOT the alcohol, ticking off each item on the list as you add them!
Stir everything to combine, then place the pan on a low heat and, stirring frequently, allow to cook very gently for 10 minutes with its lid on.
Remove from the heat, give everything another quick stir, set the pan aside and allow the fruits to cool slightly, just 1 or 2 minutes, then pour in the brandy, Kirsch, Grand Marnier, Madeira, and stir once more.
Now, pour the mixture into a large sterilised jar with a lid, kiln jar or airtight plastic container. Pop the jar in your fridge and leave for, ideally, 7 days, shaking or stirring it from time to time
Now, when you’re ready to bake the cake, turn a conventional (not fan) oven to 140°C (280F/Gas 1).
Take a large mixing bowl, add the sugar to the butter and mix (‘cream’) them together using a hand mixer, food mixer or good-old elbow grease, until they’re really well combined; lighter in colour, ‘fluffy’ and pale.
Add one egg to the bowl and work into the butter, sugar mixture then add one table-spoonful of flour to the bowl and mix that in.
Now simply add the eggs one at a time, mixing each one in really quite well before adding the next
Then add the remaining flour, grab a wooden spoon and gently it fold through the mixture
Next, in a separate bowl pour in your prepared and macerated fruit add the grated apple, orange, lemon zests and stir well
Pour the fruits into the egg flour mixture, scraping out every last tasty syrupy scrap and combine together, carefully folding until everything’s evenly mixed. Be sure to use a gentle touch and don’t over-work it!
Spoon the mixture into your chosen, prepared tin smoothing the surface with the back of the spoon or pallet knife.
Then make a slight hollow or dip in the centre of the cake, wet one of your hands and gently, briefly, lightly pat the cake’s surface all over. This will help maintain a smooth surface when it’s cooking.
Pop the cake onto the centre shelf of your oven and bake for 3 hours without opening the door.
Then cover the cake with a double folded sheet of baking parchment, gently laying it on the cake’s surface and continue to bake for a further ½ hour or until the centre feels springy when you lightly touch it.
Take the cake out of the oven, pop it onto a cooling rack, remove the folded sheet of parchment from its surface and allow it to cool for 1 hour.
Then, keeping the Grand Marnier bottle handy, pour a little of the liqueur into a tablespoon, prick the top of the cake all over with a cocktail stick and ‘feed it’, carefully spooning the alcohol into the tiny holes. Two or three tablespoons worth is plenty! Allow the cake to cool in the tin overnight.
Next morning, remove the cake from the tin, leaving the baking parchment around it, wrap fully in a little extra baking parchment, cover in foil and store in an airtight tin or plastic cake box until you need it. The cake will keep nicely for a good three or four months or so, all wrapped up.
Now it’s time to add the Almond Paste! Turn on your oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7)
In a bowl, mix the sugar and almonds together
In another bowl, beat the eggs, Grand Marnier, almond extract and spice together
Pour the eggy mix into the sugar and mix to a stiff paste. The paste should be really quite stiff, like marzipan, so add a sprinkle more of ground almonds if necessary.
Lay a sheet of grease-proof paper down on a clean work surface and dust with the icing sugar
Take about half of the paste, place on the grease-proof, grab a rolling pin, rub it with icing sugar and gently roll out the paste to about 1cm (½in) thick
Brush the top of your cake with a little egg white, pick-up your cake, turn it over and pop onto the rolled paste, sticky side down, then gently press the cake down onto the paste
Cut around the cake, leaving a thin boarder of paste around the edge of the cake.
Keep the cut-offs of paste for cutting into shapes later. Set aside
Turn the cake back-over to its right way up, remove the grease-proof, if it’s still sticking to the top and fill any ‘gaps’ between the cake and paste to ensure the surface is level as can be
Take a piece of string, run it around the edges of the cake to measure the total length of all the sides. Make a little pen mark on the length of string.
Then, using the same method as before, roll out the remaining paste into a long strip the same length as your measured piece of string, 1cm (½in) thick and cut it into two equal lengths.
Brush the sides of the cake and one side of the two strips of paste with the egg white, carefully place the two strips around the sides of the cake, sticky side to sticky side.
Take a smooth walled drinking glass and roll it against the cake sides to even and smooth out the sides
Tidy up the cake’s appearance with your hands, moulding it gently until you’re happy with its look
Next, roll the remaining bits of almond paste to approx. ½cm (¼in) thick and cut-out some festive shapes with a cookie cutter.
Brush the whole cake with the egg yolk, place your cut-out shapes all around the cake, brush the shapes with a little more of the egg yolk , then carefully lift the cake onto a baking sheet.
Pop the cake into your pre-heated oven for 15 minutes or just until the paste turns a lovely light nutty brown colour.
Take it out of the oven, place onto your cake board of choice. Allow to cool then decorate the plate with a little holly and maybe a few baubles….and that’s it. One beautiful, totally yummy Christmas cake!