Last-minute Brandied Christmas Cake
Yes, I know, it’s happened to me too. You meant to make a Christmas Cake in early October, feed it weekly with brandy, let it mature, marzipan it two weeks before and ice it one week before the big day – and guess what, you didn’t! All is not lost though. There is a very simple homemade version to hand for those who didn’t get round to it or are fearful of making one for the first time, and it’s also extremely good. It’s made with a jar of luxury mincemeat, which gives it a beautifully moist texture, and topped with whole nuts which get nicely toasted during the baking (a great topping for those who don’t like it too sweet). However, should you wish it would be easy to put ready-made marzipan and fondant icing on instead of the nuts.
|For the pre-soaking:|
|1 jar (approx 400g) luxury mincemeat|
|110g ready-to-eat prunes, roughly chopped|
|50g glace cherries, quartered|
|175g dried mixed fruits|
|50g chopped mixed peel|
|For the cake:|
|225g self-rasing flour, sifted|
|3 level teaspoons baking powder|
|150g softened butter|
|150g dark muscavado sugar|
|grated zest 1 small orange|
|grated zest 1 small lemon|
|50g Brazil nuts, roughly chopped|
|50g mixed chopped nuts|
|3 large eggs|
|1½ level teaspoons mixed spice|
|For the topping:|
|Approximately 18 walnut halves, 18 pecan halves, 23 whole Brazils (or any other mixture you like)|
|1 heaped tablespoon sieved apricot jam|
|1 tablespoon brandy|
|Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C).|
|Need help with conversions?|
You will also need an 8 inch (20 cm) round loose-based cake tin, lightly oiled, the base and sides lined with silicone paper (baking parchment).
Begin the cake a few hours before you want to make it (or even the night before) and simply place all the pre-soaking ingredients into a bowl, stir really well, then cover with a cloth and leave in a cool place. When you are ready to make the cake, take a roomy bowl and simply place the soaked ingredients plus all the rest of the cake ingredients in it, all in one go (it’s helpful to tick them off as they go in).
Now, preferably using an electric hand whisk (or a wooden spoon), beat everything together as thoroughly as possible, which will probably take about 1 minute. Then pour it into the prepared tin, level the top and arrange the whole nuts in rows across the surface – one row of Brazils, one of pecans, and so on. Finally, cover the top of the cake with a double square of silicone paper (baking parchment) with a hole the size of a 50p piece cut in the centre. Then place the cake on the centre shelf of the oven and bake it for about 2 hours or until the centre springs back when lightly touched. Then let it cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning it out to finish cooling on a wire rack, removing the lining papers.
The finishing touch is to heat the apricot jam and brandy together and brush the nuts with the mixture to give them a lovely glaze. Store the cake in an airtight tin or in double greaseproof paper and foil and it will keep beautifully moist for 3 to 4 weeks. For a festive touch you might like to tie a ribbon and bow all round for the big day.
Note: the lining papers can be bought in packs from Lakeland and kitchen shops. For instructions on how to line the tin visit our How to Cook area of the site.
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