In the festive spirit of things, I thought it would be a nice idea to post my favourite Fruit Cake recipe which, I also use for my Christmas cakes in the shop and for friends and family every year!
You can vary the types of dried fruit used or even use a pack of ready-mixed dried fruit. My choice of alcohol for flavouring is a mix of equal quantities cherry and regular brandy, but you can use rum, sherry or whisky instead. Even a combination of any of those works well. You should soak your dried fruit and mixed candied peel in the alcohol for at least 24 hours beforehand. For the best results, leave the baked cake to mature for at least 2 weeks – 1 month before eating.
Ideally, I like to make my Fruitcakes at least two months in advance. During the storage time, you can ‘feed’ your cake with your chosen alcohol once a week or fortnightly to improve the flavour and keep it really moist. It’s super quick and easy using a spray bottle to spray the alcohol over the surface. Alternatively use a pastry brush or simply drizzle it over. Leave to soak in for 1–2 minutes, then rewrap.
Preheat your oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 and line your tin (pan) with two layers of greaseproof (wax) paper or baking (parchment) paper for small cakes, and three layers for larger cakes (see Preparing Cake Tins).
In a large electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together with the lemon and orange zest until fairly light and fluffy. Add the orange juice to the soaked fruit and mixed candied peel.
Gradually add your eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Sift the flour and spices together and add half the flour mixture together with half the soaked fruit mixture to the cake mixture. Mix until just combined and then add the remaining flour mixture and fruit mixture.
Gently fold in the ground almonds and treacle with a large metal spoon until all the ingredients are combined and then spoon the mixture into your prepared baking tin.
Cover the top loosely with some more greaseproof or baking paper and then bake in the oven for the time indicated or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Pour some more alcohol over the cake while it’s still hot and leave to cool in the tin.
Remove from the tin and wrap your cake in a layer of greaseproof paper and then foil to store.
Unfortunately, Fruit Cakes can’t be made too much bigger than the height of the tin (by giving the tin a tall collar they can come up slightly above the top of the tin). If you need to give your fruit cake a little extra height, you can double-board it (place it on two cake boards stuck together with royal icing) or add a thicker layer of marzipan to the top of the cake before icing it. You can stack two cakes on top of each other using boiled and sieved apricot jam but if they are both more than 4in deep it would be a good idea to use a board and dowels in between as they can still sink even though they are dense cakes!
Fruit Cakes can be stored for up to 9 months or frozen to preserve their shelf life further.
Traditionally, Fruit Cakes are covered in marzipan then either royal icing or most commonly these days, Sugar paste (rolled fondant). Before covering the cake in marzipan, turn the cake upside down onto a board and lightly coat with boiled and sieved apricot jam using a pastry brush or palette knife. Fill in any big holes and around the base of the cake with pieces of marzipan if necessary so you have a nice shaped cake with an even surface to cover.
Roll out the marzipan to about 4mm thick and cover the cake. Roll out the Sugar paste (fondant) to a similar thickness and cover the marzipan.
Let it dry overnight and you’re ready to decorate!