Ahhhhh Christmas, time for stuffing your face with whatever you can get your hands on. Personally the bit I like least is Christmas pudding and Christmas cake. I don't like tradition fruit cakes at all as a matter of fact, but for some reason this year I decided I wanted to try to make a Christmas cake. Mainly because I've never made one before and I like a challenge, but also because Miss Nigella Lawson inspired me with her chocolate fruit cake.
As nice as this all sounded there were a couple of problems. I don't like candied peel very much, but my boyfriend detests raisins, currents and anything coffee flavoured, so I decided to make a cake inspired by Nigella's rather than using her exact recipe! It still tastes like a fruit cake, but the nicest fruit cake I've ever eaten, so I thought I might as well share my recipe for any of those who are raisin-phobic!
350g Dried soft prunes
100g Dried Cranberries
200g Glace Cherries
50g Dried Apricots
175g Brown sugar
175g Runny Honey
175g unsalted butter
150g plain flour
75g ground almonds
1/2tsp baking powder
1 & 1/2tsp mixed spice
5tbsp cocoa powder
125ml Cherry Brandy
50-100ml apple juice
3 Oranges (zest and juice)
Pinch of salt!
My first suggestion is this - put on some Christmas tune and sing loudly while you make this cake. It makes it moister, honestly!
Prunes are the backbone of this cake, so I kept the same measurements from the original recipe. I like prunes and this all worked out well as I have enough left to make devils on horseback to go with the Christmas dinner! I actually used the original 4 tablespoons of cocoa, but I think a bit more chocolate would improve the flavour so I've upped it to 5!
I would say that the fruits you use are pretty flexible so long as they're not fresh! I chose dates for texture, dried cranberries to replace the raisins, glace cherries because I love cherries and apricots because I had them in the house!
I use this sugar for pretty much everything and it worked great with this cake.
I would have liked to use proper cherry brandy, but I had liqueur so I used both that and a splash of regular brandy. I think you could use whatever you want really. Rum would be good. Orange liqueur would be delicious. Do whatever you fancy, and add as much or as little as you want!
Chop the dates, prunes and cherries up. put them all in a big pan with the butter, honey, sugar, cocoa, spices, orange zest and juice, pich of salt and booze. mix them all up and cook them for around 10 minutes.
Because I added dates to the ingredients my mix was very thick, so I added some apple juice to thin it out a bit. I added about 75ml but just do what suits you - the mixture should be thick and stodgy after 10 minutes, but still quite liquid! you could also just add more orange juice if you'd rather, or cranberry juice would be yummy..... I just happened to have some apple juice in the fridge!
once the fruit mixture is done you need to cool it for about 30 minutes. this is the time to put the oven on to pre-heat - I have a mega hot oven so I went for around 130degC, but if yours is a regular oven then 150 is best. This is a 20cm cake tin, 3 inches high, and to allow for the cake to rise nice and high Nigella suggests using greaseproof paper high up the sides......
To stop the cake rising and taking the paper with it, cut flaps into the paper and then lay it across the bottom like this......
Then add a circle on the top to hold the flaps down.
after the mixture has cooled a bit (so as not to cook the eggs when you mix everything up!) measure out your flour, raising agents and almonds. chuck this into the pan and then beat the eggs in the measuring bow, then add those to the pan too. Give it a good mix.... it takes some elbow grease but make sure everything is thoroughly mixed together! You should have a thick mixture now! scrape all the mixture into the cake tin ( leaving just enough for some bowl licking!) and put it in the oven for between 1 3/4 & 2 hours.
When you take the cake out (I suggest trying it at 1 & 3-4 hours initially!) use a skewer to test the interior. The skewer should come out clean around the edges, but there should be a little bit of goo on the skewer in the very middle (it's a nice sticky cake!) but only a bit!
Et voila! A not too Fruit cakey fruit cake!
There it is... a nice moist and sticky christmas cake! You could absolutely ice this, but I ilke the option to have it with creme fraiche, Chantilly cream or brandy butter!