Christmas cake is at its best eaten with a slice of crumbly Lancashire or Stilton cheese. Have it, instead of a pudding, to finish one of your Christmas meals.
For a 23cm round or 20cm square cake
- 100g glacé cherries
- 100g good-quality candied peel, chopped
- 225g currants
- 225g sultanas
- 225g stoned raisins, roughly chopped
- 200g dried apricots (ideally undyed), stoned and soaked
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 275g plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon mixed spice
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 225g unsalted butter
- 225g light soft brown sugar
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 50g whole almonds, roughly chopped if you wish
- 50g hazelnuts
- A little cold milk
Line the base of a 23cm round or 20cm square tin with greaseproof paper rubbed with a trace of sunflower oil, or a silicone mat cut to size, and tie a double layer of brown paper, a little higher than the rim of the tin, around the outside.
Wash and dry the glacé cherries and put into a bowl with the candied peel, all the fruit, the lemon zest and juice, and brandy. Allow this to stand, turning the fruit ocasionally, for at least 2 hours, or overnight if possible.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
Sift the flour with the salt and spices. Cream the butter and sugar until light and soft and add the beaten eggs, one at a time, stirring well between each addition. (If the mixture begins to curdle while you are adding the eggs, sprinkle in a handful of the sifted flour. Even if it does curdle, don't panic – you'll just have a heavier cake.)
Once you have added the eggs, mix in the flour and fold in the fruit mixture, the nuts and a couple of tablespoons of milk. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.
Put the cake into the preheated oven for 1 hour; then lower the heat to 170°C/gas mark 3 and bake for another 2 hours, or until a skewer pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool it in the tin, then turn it out and double wrap with greaseproof paper, and put it in an airtight tin until you want to decorate it.
It's fine to store the cake for up to 8 weeks, but beyond that, it will start to dry out a bit.
This recipe features on p19 of Sarah Raven's Complete Christmas book.