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Christmas Cake

All the glacé fruit makes for a super moist Christmas cake - that is the specialty here and what turns this cake into a generous Christmas present. Preparation takes a little time, but the amounts below are enough to make three small - medium sized cakes. Yolanda would cook up a storm at Christmas time and all close friends would receive one of these beauties, the size depending on the family numbers. The Davies always received one and we would nibble away after another turkey sandwich or have it accompanied by afternoon tea with guests who had just dropped in - I now appreciate how generous this gift really is. Beautiful flavour.

"You can halve the quantities of everything and make a smaller cake or make two small ones with the larger recipe.  Cooking time of course will be halved.  Slow oven and check from time to time"- Yolanda Derham.

Pictured: Christmas cake after soaking in brandy

Fruit - about 2 kg fruit in total, more is better than less. It is important to use glacé fruit rather than dried where it is recommended as this will help moisten the cake

500g sultanas
250g raisins chopped
250g dates chopped
125g currants
125g glacé or dried figs chopped
125g glacé pineapple chopped
125g glacé apricots or peaches chopped
125g glacé ginger chopped
250g glacé cherries chopped
125g mixed peel
2 tsp rosewater
2 tsp orange flower water
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup brandy

Cake -
250g butter
1 cup brown sugar
6 eggs
1 ½ cup plain flour
1/3 cup self raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
Extra ½ cup brandy

Icing –
Almond/Marzipan Icing

Combine all fruit in a large bowl with the brandy etc, cover and leave a couple of days, the longer the better, stir now and then.

Butter and line a deep 19cm square, or deep 23cm round tin with 3 layers of buttered brown paper - to protect it from browning. You can use any size tin as long as it is deep, then slow cook and check regularly.

Preheat oven 150°C.

Beat butter until soft, add sugar, and beat only til combined.
Add eggs one at a time, beat only til combined.
Add creamed mix to fruit mix, mix well.
Stir in sifted flours and mixed spice.

Pour into prepared tins up to ¾ full, spread evenly, and bake in slow oven 2 - 3 hours depending on size of tins. Cake will brown on top.

When cake is cooked, while hot pour over the extra ½ cup brandy. Cool in oven.

Cover the cake with 2 layers foil and store at least 6 weeks before Xmas.

Pictured: three brands of almond/marzipan icing

Before icing, prick and pour more brandy to moisten cake.

Ice with prepared almond paste after glazing with  jam so icing to stick. (Brands available in order of quality - Odense is the top brand, Blackwood Lane, Orchard).

Serves 8 - 20 depending on cake tin size

Pictured: soaking fruit in brandy for the Christmas Cake

Tastetip - Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas Pudding on Christmas Day because of the resemblance between pagan celebrations of the winter solstice and the flaming of the pudding!

In medieval times marzipan was so popular it was moulded into sculptures to be eaten at the end of feasts, which later became simple 'marchpane' cakes. Eventually these cakes were replaced by those now typical of Christmas and weddings.