Christmas cake present
The perfect Christmas gift? A Christmas cake present! Wrapped up in a traditional double layer of marzipan and fondant, and finished off with gingerbread biscuit tags, this fruit cake makes the perfect present. Fresh holly and mini baubles can also add another decorative festive flourish.
- 150g/5½oz mixed dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins and currants
- 150g/5½oz dried cranberries
- 150g/5½oz pitted soft prunes
- 150g/5½oz pitted soft-dried dates
- 150g/5½oz dried figs
- 150ml/5fl oz brandy, plus optional extra to ‘feed’ the cake
- ½ orange, finely grated zest and juice only
- 150g/5½oz mixed whole nuts
- 150g/5½oz butter, softened
- 150g/5½oz dark muscovado sugar
- 3 tbsp black treacle or date syrup, optional
- 3 free-range eggs (at room temperature), beaten
- 150g/5½oz self-raising flour
- 3 tbsp ground mixed spice
Put the mixed dried fruit and cranberries in a bowl. Using kitchen scissors, snip the prunes, dates and figs into small pieces, removing any stalks, and drop into the bowl. Add the brandy and orange zest and juice, and stir well to combine. Cover the bowl with a shower cap, clingfilm or plate and leave to soak in a cool place for at least 12 hours or, even better, 2 days.
When you’re ready to make the cake, grease and line a 20cm/8in square tin and preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
Spread the nuts on a baking tray and toast, checking frequently to be sure they don’t burn, for 5–10 minutes or until fragrant (you can skip the toasting, but it really brings out their flavour). Cool, then chop the nuts – I like them relatively chunky to contrast with the fruit. Turn the oven down to 140C/120C Fan/Gas 1.
Using a hand-held electric whisk (it’s tricky to beat this small quantity in a free-standing mixer), beat together the butter and sugar for 5–10 minutes or until very light and creamy. Beat in the treacle or syrup, if using. Gradually add the beaten eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour and spice into the mixture and fold in. Finally, stir through the soaked fruit, with any liquid left in the bowl, and the chopped nuts.
Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon dipped in hot water. Bake for 2¼–2½ hours or until the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Set the tin on a wire rack. If you want to ‘feed’ the cake, leave it to cool for about 15 minutes, then prick the top all over with a cocktail stick or skewer, going about 3cm deep. Brush over about 1 tablespoon of brandy. Leave to soak in while the cake is cooling. Once the cake is cold, remove from the tin and wrap in fresh baking parchment, if you like, and then in foil before storing in an airtight tin or container for at least 5 days before eating. You can repeat the feeding process weekly for up to 5 weeks.
When you’re ready to finish the cake, gently heat the apricot jam and spread over the surface of the cake. Roll out the marzipan to about the thickness of a pound coin and cover the whole cake. Roll out the fondant icing to the same thickness and cover the cake completely, pressing down to smooth it out.
Once covered in marzipan and fondant. Decorate your cakes with your chosen ribbons and trimmings, tucking the ends of the ribbons under the cake – the weight of the cake will secure them, although pins can be used. Just don’t forget to remove them before eating! If you've made gingerbread gift tags tie them to the ribbons on the cake, using either actual ribbons or strawberry laces if using. Holly and mini baubles can be added alongside or in place of the tags, depending on the size and style of the present.
This recipe is for a square cake, but any size can be created.