Not everyone is confident about making a Christmas cake – probably because we only bake them once a year. Often recipes have a telephone directory’s worth of ingredients – along with the contents of half an off-licence. The resulting cake is confused, tasting of everything, usually dry, having been baked for three or four hours, & is often far too sweet.
My recipe is sugar-free, as I prefer the deeper toffee flavour & sophistication of dark treacle with a honeyed oomph. Personally, I can’t stand marzipan & Royal icing, although marzipan can disguise a multitude of sins, potholes & cracks. My mum’s Christmas cake always sank in the middle. The embarrassing hollow had to be filled with marzipan, stuck to the cake with melted apricot jam.
Royal icing, like snowy peaks brought up with the flat of the knife resembling a badly artexed kitchen. Alternatively, with steady hand & smoothing palate knife, you can flat-ice a cake. Personally, I prefer to brush with sieved apricot jam & decorate with glace fruits. Alternatively, I arrange split almonds & glace cherry halves in a pattern over the top of the cake – just before it goes in the oven.
150g halved glacé cherries
100g cut mixed dried peel
500ml apple juice
175g self-raising wholemeal flour
175g self-raising white flour
2 tsp mixed spice
6 tbsp (90ml) sunflower oil
3 tbsp clear honey
2 tbsp dark treacle
2 eggs beaten
50g toasted hazelnuts – smashed up a bit
Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC. Grease & line a deep round 20cm cake tin. Secure with string & triple folded brown paper around the outside.
Sift the flours into a mixing bowl together with the mixed spice & make a well in the centre.
Put the sunflower oil in a bowl, stir in the dark treacle, honey & Guinness. Now add to the sifted flours.
Drain the dried mixed fruit from the apple juice. Discard the apple juice. Add the mixed fruit to the cake mixture. Add the beaten eggs & toasted hazelnuts; thoroughly mix all the ingredients together.
Turn the mixture into the prepared tin & smooth the surface. Bake for two hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack until cold, then lift out of the tin & remove the paper.