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Mary Berry's classic rich Christmas cake

22 NOVEMBER 2013
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This is a wonderful, rich traditional fruit cake and can be made up to three months in advance. Allow plenty of time to ‘feed’ the cake with brandy and let it mature.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus overnight soaking, plus time to marzipan and ice the cake.
Cooking Time: 4 ¾ hours
Serves: 18 – 20

Ingredients


100g red or natural glacé cherries/100g ready-to-eat dried Fairtrade apricots/275g currants/ 175g Fairtrade sultanas/175g Fairtrade raisins/ 50g finely chopped/candied peel/¼ level tsp freshly grated nutmeg/½ level tsp ground mixed spice 3 tbsp brandy
225g plain flour
225g softened butter
225g dark Fairtrade muscovado sugar
4 large Freedom Food eggs
50g chopped Fairtrade almonds
1 scant tbsp black treacle
grated rind of 1 Fairtrade lemon, grated rind of 1 Fairtrade orange

To finish
Brandy, to feed/675 g almond paste or marzipan/ 675 g fondant or ready-to-roll icing

To decorate
Almond paste (leftover from putting over the cake)/green food colouring/ribbon/holly or your favourite decorations

Method

Begin this cake the night before you want to bake it. Cut the cherries into quarters, put in a sieve and rinse under running water. Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper. Snip the apricots into pieces. Measure the fruits into a large bowl, mix in the brandy, cover and leave in a cool place overnight.

Preheat the oven to 140°C / Fan 120°C / Gas 1. Grease a 20 cm (8 in) deep round cake tin, then line the base and sides with a double layer of baking parchment. Measure the flour, spices, butter, sugar, eggs, almonds, treacle and lemon and orange rinds into a large bowl. Beat well, then fold in the soaked fruits. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon. Cover the top of the cake loosely with a double layer of baking parchment. Bake in the preheated oven for about 4½–4¾ hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little brandy. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of baking parchment, and again in foil, and store in a cool place, feeding at intervals with more brandy. Don’t remove the lining parchment when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist. Cover the cake with almond paste about a week before icing.

Cover the cake with fondant or ready-to-roll icing. Colour the almond paste (left over from putting the almond paste on to the cake) dark green. Roll out on a board that has been lightly sprinkled with icing sugar and cut into 2.5 cm (1 in) wide strips. Cut these into diamonds and then, with the base of an icing nozzle, remove half circles from the sides of the diamonds to give holly-shaped leaves. Make vein marks on the leaves with a sharp knife, bend the leaves over the handles of wooden spoons and leave to dry. Decorate the top of the cake with the almond-paste holly leaves and finish by tying a ribbon around the sides of the cake.

When shopping for your baking ingredients this Christmas think of farm animal welfare and look for labels such as the RSPCA's Freedom Food to help improve farm animal welfare.

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