Classic Christmas Cakes

Makes 4 x 6″ Square Cakes

Ingredients

  • 700g currants
  • 800g sultanas
  • 400g raisins
  • 200g glacé cherries, quartered
  • 200g mixed peel
  • Zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • Zest of 2 oranges, grated
  • 200ml brandy
  • 650g plain flour
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • 150g almonds, chopped
  • 150g pecans, chopped
  • 650g butter
  • 450g dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 12 eggs, lightly beaten

To decorate & serve

  • Whole blanched almonds or pecans
  • Glacé cherries or cranberries
  • Apricot jam
  • 300g marzipan
  • 400g Renshaw Ready-to-Use Royal icing
  • Icing sugar
  • Crushed candy canes

Instructions

  1. Combine the dried fruit, cherries, mixed peel and zest in a large bowl. Add the brandy and stir to mix well. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave overnight.
  2. To prepare the tin for baking, place the dividers to make four 6 inch squares. Grease and line the sides and bottom of each cake compartment with a double layer of baking parchment, then tie a double thickness of brown paper or parchment around the outside of the tin.
  3. Preheat the oven to 140ËšC/Gas 1. In a bowl combine the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice, cinnamon and grated nutmeg. Place the chopped almonds and pecans in another bowl.
  4. In a very large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together, then add the almond essence. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. You may need to add a tablespoon or two of flour if the mixture begins to curdle. Once all the egg mixture has been added, fold in half the flour, half the fruit mixture and half the nuts, then repeat with the remaining flour, fruit and nuts. Mix well until all ingredients are fully combined.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the four cake compartments and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
  6. Decorate two of the cakes with your choice of nuts ─ whole blanched almonds or pecans work well ─ and your choice of fruit: coloured glacé cherries or cranberries create a lovely jewelled effect. Lightly cover these two cakes with a piece of baking parchment to prevent the fruit and nuts from burning.
  7. Bake for 2½-3 hours. If the cakes are browning too quickly, cover the tin with a layer of greaseproof or baking parchment. After 2½ hours, check to see if the cakes are cooked. They should feel firm to the touch, and be a deep dark brown colour all over. Insert a skewer into the centre of each cake: if there is sticky dough on the skewer when you pull it out then the cakes need longer if it is clean, remove them from the oven.
  8. Leave the cakes to cool in the tin on a wire rack for about an hour, then remove the sides and dividers from the tin and allow the cakes to cool completely.
  9. Once cool, gently warm a few tablespoons of sieved apricot jam in a saucepan and brush over the top of each cake to glaze the fruit and nut covered cakes, and prepare the remaining two cakes to be topped with marzipan and icing.
  10. Roll out 150g marzipan into a 6 inch square and place on top of one of the remaining cakes. Repeat with the other cake. Cover the tops of the cakes with approx. 150g of Renshaw Ready-to-Use Royal Icing. Any leftover icing can be used for piping to decorate the cake.

Tips: The cakes can be made up to six weeks ahead. Double wrap them first in either grease-proof paper or baking parchment, then in foil, and store in an airtight tin. The cakes can be fed with extra brandy to keep them moist ─ just prick the surface with a metal skewer and slowly pour 1-2 tbsp brandy over each cake.