I really love this cake, it was born out of necessity ( I have a nut & dairy allergy) but with a lot of experimentation I settled on a good dense, sweet and spicy cake that smells heavenly without being too filling or dry. Dry fruit cake is the pits. It's great iced or plain. Alas the alcohol content is very high so it is not suitable for every one. However an alcohol free version can be easily made a few days before Christmas- just soak the fruit in cold black tea or fruit juice (orange or cranberry juice would be lovely. )
Christmas cake can seem super daunting, baking something so far in advance spoilage can be a worry but that's the important role the alcahol plays preserving the cake and allowing the flavours to deepen and develop.
What you'll need:
- 200g glacé cherries, chopped (I like French style best, if dayglo red and green are you're thing I won't judge you too much)
- 200g candied peel (often referred to as mixed peel)
- 1kg sultans, raisins or currants (a mix or just the fruit you like best, i usually just use raisins because I like them best and we tend to have them in the pantry anyway.)
- 1 litre bottle of dark rum (this will serve you from start to finish and leave you some to spare, supermarket own brand is fine)
- 30ml/1 table spoon of vanilla extract (never essence if you can help it)
- 250g very dark brown sugar
- 250g butter (I use a dairy free margarine, as long as its okay for baking it'll work in the cake)
- 6 medium eggs
- 400g plain flour
- 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 100g ground rice or ground almonds
- 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon of ginger
so the main body of work is in the preparation. The dried fruit needs to be put in your large bowl and then add 30ml/1 table spoon of vanilla and 250ml/1 British cup of rum. Mix. Wrap the bowl in cling film and put in the fridge to soak for at least 24 hours.
First draw around the tin on your baking paper and cut out along the inside of the circle. Next roll out a piece of baking paper longer than the circumference of the tin. Roll, press down slightly and cut "fingers" into one end about an inch or two in length. Unroll and fold horizontally so the uncut edge meets the base of the fingers, they should stand out like a fancy paper fringe.
Now put the paper on the tin like a jacket, fringe on the inside. Don't get too worried about wrinkles, we'll be greasing the paper so it'll flatten out.
Insert the disc you've already cut into the base of the tin on top of the fringe. Cut another piece of baking paper, this time quite short and about the circumference of the tin. Wrap around the tin and secure with string.
Now check that the cake tin will fit in your oven, you will probably have to move some shelves about because of the baking paper jacket. Pre heat the oven to a medium heat, about gas mark 4, 350°F or 175-180°C. Bear in mind every oven is different and you know yours best so be sure to adjust your settings accordingly.
After that massive essay, the actual making of the cake is super simple! Sift the dry ingrideints on to a plate, cream the butter and sugar, slowly add the eggs until well combined. Add the dry ingridents a little at a time as you do this to prevent the mix from splitting. Slowly fold in the fruit, don't agitate it too much or mix too forcefully, you want to keep as much of the fruit whole as possible. Spoon into your cake tin, ensure the mix is relatively level in the tin. Pop it into the oven on top of your cookie sheet (to prevent the base burning, if you want you can put a layer of baking paper on the cookie sheet.) It should take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to bake. When a skewer comes out clean and the cake is a lovely golden brown the cake is ready to come out.
Let the cake cool in the tin, once cool remove all the baking paper, prick it all over with a skewer and brush generously with rum. wrap in baking paper & place in an airtight container. If like me you don't have a container large enough simply wrap the cake in baking paper and cling film.
Store in a cool dark place & take it out once a week to give it a generous feeding (brush all over) with rum.
Take out at Christmas time (or when every you feel like being decadent) and enjoy!
P.s. this is part of a yearly bake along with some friends, so feel free to share your effort in the comments, ask questions, recommend other recipes, methods or (horror of horrors) write sonnets on how you think yule logs are miles better than fruit cake!