Irish Whiskey Christmas Cakes
If you've never made a Christmas cake before, this one is dead easy, and you won't be disappointed.
These have a much thinner layer of marzipan and icing, and the flavour of the Irish whiskey in the icing, as well as the cake, is brilliant. The instructions here are for four small cakes or one large cake. If you want to keep the cake for any length of time, let the marzipan dry out (covered with a clean tea cloth) for a week before icing.
This recipe is from Delia's Complete How to Cook. Makes four 4 inch (10 cm) square cakes or an 8 inch (20 cm) square cake.
One week before you intend to bake the cake, measure out the whiskey, bitters and 3 tablespoons of water into a large saucepan, then roughly chop the prunes, cherries and almonds and finely dice the mixed candied peel.
Add these, along with the rest of the pre-soaking ingredients, to the pan, ticking them as you go to make sure nothing gets left out. Now stir and bring the mixture up to simmering point, then, keeping the heat low, simmer very gently, without a lid, for 15 minutes. After that, allow everything to cool completely, then pour the mixture into a large jar with a lid or an airtight plastic container and leave it in the fridge for seven days, giving it a little shake from time to time. When you're ready to bake the cake, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C). **Please note: ALL Delia's recipes have been written and tested using conventional oven temperatures, please refer to your handbook for fan-assisted**
All you need to do is measure out the flour, sugar and butter into a very large bowl, then add the eggs and either whisk or beat with a wooden spoon until everything is evenly blended. Now gradually fold in the fruit mixture until it is evenly distributed. Then spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling the surface with the back of the spoon. Bake in the centre of the oven for 3 hours without opening the door, then cover the cake with a double thickness of greaseproof paper and continue to bake it for a further 30 minutes or until the centre feels springy when lightly touched. Cool the cake for 45 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it's completely cold, wrap it in a double layer of greaseproof paper, then foil, and store it in an airtight container.
When you are ready to finish the cake, if you are making the four small cakes take a sharp knife and cut the cake into quarters so you end up with four 4 inch (10 cm) square cakes. Then melt the jam with the whiskey in a small saucepan and stir it a few times until all the lumps have dissolved. Now, using a brush, coat the surface of each cake quite generously with it. Take the marzipan and cut off a quarter of the block, then, on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, roll the piece into an 8 inch (20 cm) square. Now, with a sharp knife, cut the square into quarters so you end up with four 4 inch (10 cm) square pieces. Gently take each square and place one on top of each cake, lightly pressing the marzipan down. Next, cut the remaining piece of marzipan in half and roll each half into a strip measuring 6 x 16 inches (15 x 40 cm), then cut each strip in half lengthways so you are left with four strips: one for the sides of each cake. Press each strip lightly around the edges of each cake and pinch to seal at the join with the top piece of marzipan.
For the 8 inch (20 cm) cake, just leave the cake whole. Melt the jam and whiskey as above and use a brush to coat the surface of the cake. Take the marzipan and cut off a quarter of the block, then roll this piece out to an 8 inch (20 cm) square and place this on the top of the cake. Cut the remaining piece of marzipan in half and roll each half into a strip measuring 3 x 16 inches (7.5 x 40 cm), then use these strips to cover the sides of the cake.
For the icing, sieve the icing sugar, then place the egg white and molasses (or black treacle) in a large bowl and, using an electric hand whisk, whisk together thoroughly. Now, with the whisk running, add a tablespoon of icing sugar at a time and keep adding it until the mixture thickens. As it begins to crumble, add a tablespoon of the Irish whiskey to combine the mixture, then carry on adding more icing sugar until it becomes thick. Add another tablespoon of whiskey, then the rest of the icing sugar and whiskey, and keep whisking until everything is blended together.
Now divide the icing into four and, using a palette knife smooth it over the top and down the sides of each cake, dipping the knife into a small saucepan of simmering water to make it easier to spread. To give the cakes a nice finish, dip the knife in the simmering water once more and make swirls with the knife over the cakes, then leave them to dry overnight. Wrap each cake in greasproof paper, then in foil, and keep in an airtight container.
To decorate the cakes, you'll need four lengths of ribbon each 4ft (1.2m) long and 1½ inches (4cm) wide. When you're ready to finish the cakes, carefully place a length of ribbon round each one, tying the ends in a bow.
For the 8inch (20cm) cake, you will need a length of ribbon 6½ ft (2m) long and about 1½ inches (4cm) wide
**Please note: ALL Delia's recipes have been written and tested using conventional oven temperatures, please refer to your handbook for fan-assisted**
Using a fan-assisted oven? Click here