Delia

Virtually Organic Christmas Cake - Unlive

There are so many ingredients in a traditional Christmas cake that it's almost impossible to get organic versions of them all. But this cake from Fiona Beckett gets as near to it as possible. Organic dried fruits, in particular, have an amazing flavour. Bear in mind that you need to start soaking the dried fruit three days before you intend to make the cake.


Makes one 8 inch (20 cm) round cake




Virtually Organic Christmas Cake - Unlive
Ingredients
 12 oz (350 g) organic currants
 6 oz (175 g) organic sultanas
 6 oz (175 g) organic raisins
 41/2 oz (125 g) organic dried apricots
 7 tablespoons brandy or whisky, plus a little extra if needed
 9 oz (250 g) organic plain flour
 1 rounded teaspoon ground mixed spice
 1/4 rounded teaspoon ground cloves
 5 medium organic eggs
 9 oz (250 g) slightly salted butter, at room temperature
 9 oz (250 g) organic unrefined cane sugar
 2 oz (50 g) organic whole almonds, skinned and roughly chopped
 grated zest 1 organic orange
 grated zest 1 organic unwaxed lemon
 1/2 teaspoon salt
Equipment

You will also need an 8 inch (20 cm) round, loose-bottomed cake tin with a minimum depth of 31/2 inches (9 cm), greased with groundnut or other flavourless oil and double-lined with baking parchment; and a large ribbon to decorate.

Method

Three days before you intend to make the cake, measure out the currants, sultanas, raisins and apricots. Using kitchen scissors, snip the apricots into pieces the same size as the raisins. Pour over the brandy or whisky, mix well and spoon into a large storage jar. Give it a good shake each day. Add a little extra brandy or whisky after a day or two if the fruit seems too dry.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2, 300F, 150C. To make the cake sift the flour with the mixed spice, ground cloves and salt. Beat the eggs lightly. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy, then gradually add the beaten eggs, beating well between each addition. Add a dessertspoon of the flour mixture when you add the last of the eggs to help prevent the mixture from curdling (if it does, don't worry).

Mix in half of the remaining flour mixture together with half the soaked fruit and all the almonds, then repeat with the rest of the flour, the remaining fruit and the grated orange and lemon zest. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, making sure the mixture is evenly distributed, then smooth the top, hollowing it slightly in the middle to ensure you get a flat-topped cake. Cover the top of the tin with baking parchment, place on a low shelf in the oven and bake for 4-41/2 hours. After 4 hours, check whether the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into it. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready, otherwise turn down the heat to gas mark 1, 275F, 140C and return it to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Leave in the tin to cool for an hour, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely. At this point you can store it for up to 2 months in a cool, dark place, wrapped in a double layer of baking parchment followed by a layer of kitchen foil. You can decorate the cake up to 2-3 days before you intend to serve it. To make the topping, heat the apricot jam and sieve it into a bowl. Place the bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water (this is to keep the jam liquid) while you brush the cake thickly with the jam. Then arrange the dried fruits and nuts in circles on top of the cake. Brush again with the jam until the top of the cake is glistening, then store in a lidded, airtight container until ready to serve. Tie a large ribbon round the cake before serving.

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