This recipe is the best I know for ensuring a perfect result every time. Like the Christmas pudding, this cake will benefit from storing in an airtight container with regular “feeding” with an appropriate alcohol to allow it to mature. Normally made at least 6 to 12 months beforehand and stored in a cool, dark place, or alternatively you may bake this about 4 to 6 weeks before Christmas to allow time for icing.
1 lb (450 g) Currants
6 oz (175 g) Sultanas
6 oz (175 g) Raisins
2 oz (50 g) Mixed candied peel, finely chopped
2 oz (50 g) Glacé cherries, rinsed, dried, and finely chopped**
3 T Brandy, plus extra for “feeding”
8 oz (225 g) Plain flour½ t Salt
¼ t Nutmeg, freshly grated½ t Ground mixed spice
8 oz (225 g) Unsalted butter
8 oz (225 g) Soft brown sugar4 Large eggs
2 oz (50 g) Almonds, chopped (the skins can be left on)
1 t black treacle/molassesGrated zest from 1 lemonGrated zest from 1 orange
4 oz (110 g) Whole blanched almonds (if you don’t intend to ice the cake)
** I think these are awful, so I substitute them with roughly chopped fig, date, and prune.
PreparationThe night before:
Weigh out dried fruit and mixed peel. Place in mixing bowl and add brandy. Cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth. Leave overnight or for at least 12 hours. Turn the fruit occasionally with a wooden spoon to allow the alcohol to be absorbed by the fruit.
Prepare an 8-inch (20 cm) round cake tin or a 7-inch (18 cm) square tin. Grease and line with baking paper. You can also tie brown paper around the outside of the tin for protection against the outside of the cake drying out or burning.
Measure out the rest of the ingredients.
Sift the flour, salt, and spices into a large mixing bowl.
In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until light, pale, and fluffy.
Beat the eggs and add them to the creamed mixture, stirring this in a tablespoonful at a time to prevent the eggs curdling. If the egg curdles, this is not too much of a problem but the cake texture will be slightly different. Gradually fold in the flour/spice mix. This will help add air to the mix. Do not beat.
Add the fruit, peel, chopped nuts, and treacle/molasses.
Add grated lemon and orange zests, and mix everything well.
*If the cake is not going to be iced, then either scatter whole blanched almonds on the surface or arrange in a formal pattern.
Cover the top of the cake loosely with a double layer of baking paper (or allow sufficient to fold over the top as above). This gives extra protection during the long slow cooking. Alternatively, as a last resort, loosely arrange a piece of foil over the top to allow moisture to escape but prevent burning. The latter method can be used in an emergency if you feel the cake is browning too quickly. Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4½-4¾ hours. This time can occasionally be up to three quarters of an hour longer, and you need to assess baking time after the cake has been cooking undisturbed for a minimum of 4 hours. Resist all temptations to “check on the cake” before this as the temperature decrease caused by opening the oven door can affect even cooking of the cake.
When you are happy with the look and “feel” of the cake, remove it from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes.
Remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack. Let it cool completely.
At this time you may wish to store the cake if it is prepared well in advance of Christmas.
Line a cake tin or storage container with baking parchment with sufficient overlap to cover the cake completely when it is placed in the tin. For longer-term storage, it is important to double wrap the cake in baking paper and also wrap in baking foil to help keep moisture in the cake. Remember to allow for an opening to allow the cake to be “fed” with a small measure of an appropriate spirit (brandy, rum, whiskey) regularly (every two to three months) while it is stored away. If the top of the cake has not been decorated with almonds, it is possible to flip the cake each time it is fed to ensure even distribution of the spirit.