With Christmas just round the corner, it’s the perfect time to make a traditional British Christmas cake
For the cake:
Currants - 240 gm
Raisins - 120 gm, stoned, cleaned
Sultanas - 120 gm, cleaned
Glace' cherries - 120 gm, quartered
Mixed chopped peel - 120 gm
Chopped cashew nuts - 60 gm
Ground almonds - 60 gms
The grated rind of 2 lemons
Plain flour - 300 gm
A pinch of salt
Baking powder - 2 level teaspoonfuls
Mixed spices - 2 level teaspoonfuls
Butter or margarine - 240 gm
Sugar (preferably soft dark, brown sugar) - 240 gm
Caramelized sugar syrup / black treacle - 3 level dessertspoonfuls
Eggs - 3 large
Rum - 3 tbsp
An 8-inch round cake tin
Brush the tin with melted fat. Cut out two rounds of greaseproof paper to fit the base of the tin and put one in position. Cut a doubled strip of grease proof paper 2 inches deeper than the tin and long enough to go round the inside. Make an inch fold along the length of the strip and make diagonal snips, one inch apart to the fold. Fit the strip round the sides of the tin with the snipped edge fitting neatly on the base. Cover it with the other round of paper and brush the entire lining with melted fat.
Mix together all the dried fruit with the cashew nuts, ground almonds and grated lemon rind. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and mixed spice together and mix a third of this into the dried fruit. Beat the butter or margarine to a soft cream. Add the brown sugar and continue beating until soft and light. Beat in the treacle or the caramel syrup. Beat the eggs, and add them gradually to the creamed mixture, beating well with each addition.
Using a metal spoon, stir in the dry ingredients alternately with the dried fruits and rum. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth over the surface and hollow out the centre fairly deeply so that the cake will rise evenly.
Bake the cake on the centre shelf of a moderate oven, gas mark 4, or 350 degrees F (170 degrees C) for thirty minutes. Then reduce the heat to gas mark 2, or 300 degrees F ( 150 degrees C) for a further two and a quarter hours, or until a warmed skewer pushed into the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to stand in the tin for 1/2 an hour, then turn it on to a wire tray to cool.
When the cake is completely cold, keep the greaseproof paper lining on and wrap it in foil. Store the cake in a cool, dry place until required.
For the almond icing
Ground almonds - 240 gm
Caster sugar - 120 gm
Sifted icing sugar - 120 gm
Egg yolk - 1 (Keep the egg white in a screw-topped jar for the royal icing)
Lemon juice - 1 tbsp
A dusting of cornflour
About 225 gm apricot jam, sieved
For the Royal Icing
Egg white - 1
Lemon juice - 1 tbsp
Glycerine - 1 tsp
Sifted icing sugar - 340 gm
To complete the cake, you will need:
3 Christmas cake decorations
A 10-inch silver cake board
1 metre red satin ribbon, 1-1/2 inches wide
Remove the greaseproof paper from the cake . Turn the cake upside down and use the base as the top. Mix the ground almonds with the caster and icing sugar, then add the egg yolk and lemon juice to make a firm consistency similar to short-crust pastry.
Dust the working surface with corn flour , then roll out a third of the almond icing to a round, the size of the cake, using the tin as a guide.
Brush the top of the cake with warmed jam and lift the almond icing into position. Measure the circumference of the cake with a piece of string , then roll the rest of the almond icing into a sausage shape the length of the string. Flatten the strip with a rolling pin to the depth of the cake and trim the sides so they are straight.
Brush the strip of almond icing with more jam, then lift the cake on its side and roll it along the icing so that it adheres to the cake.
Leave the cake on a wire tray covered with a cloth, in a cool, dry place for about three days for the almond icing to dry.
To make the royal icing, beat the eggwhite and lemon juice together lightly, add the glycerine, then gradually add the icing sugar, beating it until the icing is of fairly stiff consistency and will stand in peaks. Spread some of the icing around the side of the cake, making the surface as smooth as possible.
Turn the rest of the icing on top of the cake, spread it to the edges, then rough the surface with a palate knife. Arrange the three Christmas decorations on top and leave it in a cool place to dry. This will take about three days.
Transfer the cake to the silver board, sticking it in place with a little icing, then encircle the sides of the cake with the ribbon.