This is a lovely, moist cake which doesn’t take days to make. The flavour is pretty good straight away, but will improve with weeks or months to develop – so if you can get onto it a little before the festive season, then you’ll be rewarded richly – literally! The almond paste is very moreish for those who love that kind of thing, but is easily left off if you’re not a fan of almond flavour.
1kg fruit cake mix
200 gm sultanas
150 gm dried cranberries (Craisins)
50 gm glace cherries, chopped roughly
100 gm chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts or any combination)
250 gm butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp lemon essence
1 tsp almond essence
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Several grates of fresh nutmeg or 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
125 mls (half a cup) brandy or sherry
Finely grated rind + juice of one large orange.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Cut a round of baking paper to fit the bottom of a 23cm round tin. Grease the sides of the tin and put it aside.
Place the dried fruit, brandy or sherry, orange rind and juice in a large frying pan until it simmers. Turn the fruit through the liquid until it looks plump and marjority of the liquid has been absorbed. Tip the fruit + any remaining liquid into a bowl to cool.
Sift flour and spices together and set aside.
In your largest bowl (or a large pot will suffice, but ensure you scrape into the edges), cream the butter, sugar and three essences until pale.
Beat in one egg one at a time with 2 tablespoons of the flour mix, until all eggs are added.
Stir in the cooled, prepared fruit and remaining flour and spice mix. Fold through the chopped nuts.
Pour into the tin. Wash your hands, then with a damp palm, press down all over the top until it is level. This will discourage the fruit from popping up and burning while it is baking.
Bake at 150°C for 1½ hours, then 130°C for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours longer, until a skewer in the centre comes out clean.
Use any leftover fruit and other bits and pieces in our delicious and easy Christmas steamed pudding recipe.
115 gm ground almonds
225 gm icing sugar
2 heaped tablespoons liquid glucose
1 tsp almond essence
Juice of one small lemon + water
Place the ground almonds and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and mix until combined. Add the liquid glucose and almond extract and pulse again to combine. The mixture should still be dry and crumbly.
With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the lemon juice, stopping as soon as the mixture starts to clump together. Add as much water, one teaspoon at a time, to make this happen if necessary.
Scrape the almond paste out and knead a few times to form a ball. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for a few hours, until it is able to be rolled.
To apply the almond paste to the cake, place a large tablespoon of apricot jam in a mug and add a similar amount of boiling water. Mix well and strain to remove any lumps. Brush the top of the cake with this liquid.
Roll the almond paste to form a circle – use the base of your baking pan as a guide and cut a neat circle around it. Carefully lift the circle up onto the prepared cake. Follow the same process with fondant/white sugarpaste on top of the almond paste if desired.