Friday, 13 November 2009

What to do on a wet and windy weekend in November

I'm making a Christmas cake this weekend. Last year I followed the Waitrose recipe for Christmas cake soaked in Drambuie and I have to say it was very good. I think mostly it is the fact that it is full of soft fruits like apricots and prunes and that the Waitrose vine fruit mix is good quality. I repeat the recipe below in case you want to try it.

Christmas Cake with Drambuie-Soaked Vine Fruits


750g Waitrose Wholesome Vine Fruit Mix

250g soft apricots, quartered

200g tub cut mixed peel

200g tub glacé cherries, halved

100g pitted soft prunes, quartered

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

100ml Drambuie

250g unsalted butter, softened

200g dark muscovado sugar

5 medium eggs, beaten

300g plain flour, sieved

200g walnut pieces


Place all the dried fruit in a large bowl then stir in the grated orange zest and juice, and the Drambuie. Cover and leave to soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to 150°C, gas mark 2. Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm-round or 20cm-square cake tin with baking parchment so it stands 5cm above the top. Use string to tie a double thickness of baking parchment around the outside of the tin. This will help prevent the cake drying out during cooking.

In a large bowl, use a hand-held electric whisk to beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg, a little at a time. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of flour with the last few additions of egg.

Add the soaked fruit and walnuts, with any remaining liquid, then mix well. Fold in the rest of the flour. Spoon into the cake tin, then use a round-bladed knife to level the top of the mixture. Stand the tin on a tray and bake for 3-4 hours until cooked through, covering the top of the cake with foil if it starts to over-brown. To check that the cake is cooked, insert a skewer into its centre – if the skewer comes out clean the cake is cooked. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Remove the cake from the tin and store in its lining paper, wrapped tightly in foil. Keep in a cool place. Feed the cake every few weeks by unwrapping it, making small holes in its top, then drizzling with a couple of tablespoons of Drambuie. This will help to keep the cake moist and add extra flavour. If the cake has domed in the centre during baking, neatly slice off the top before covering with marzipan. To ensure a completely flat surface for decorating, turn the cake upside down before covering with marzipan and icing.

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