We are fast approaching the time of year when I begin to get ridiculously excited. I love Christmas!
I just can’t imagine Christmas without a fruit cake – if I’m totally honest one of my main reasons for making one is to fill the house with the amazing, festive smell while the cake is in the oven! I usually make elaborate plans to ice and decorate the cake, but in reality I’m never usually organised enough to actually do it. If you’re short of time, a fruit and nut topping is easy and looks so pretty.
This simmer and stir method means it isn’t totally necessary to make the cake weeks before Christmas and feed it – but you can if you want to.
It’s definitely worth taking the time to line your cake tin correctly to protect the cake during its long baking time.
Grease a deep, loose bottomed 23cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with non stick baking paper. Cut out a circle of baking paper, using the base of your tin as a template. To line the sides, cut a strip of baking paper a little longer than the circumference of the tin and about 3 inches higher. Fold it 1 inch along its length, then using scissors make little snips up to the fold line, making a fringe along the length. It should now fit snugly inside the cake tin. Finally, fit your circle over the top, covering the fringe.
Amaretto fruit cake
200g dried figs, chopped
200g glace cherries, rinsed, dried and halved
50g crystallized ginger, chopped (optional)
125ml Amaretto, plus extra for soaking the cake
250g dark brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 large Orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons treacle
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 medium eggs
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds
FOR THE FRUIT AND NUT TOPPING: (OPTIONAL)
3-4 tablespoons apricot jam
250g mixed fruit and nuts such as apricots, glace cherries, cranberries, crystallized ginger, Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Place the dried fruits in a large saucepan with the Amaretto, butter, sugar, Orange zest and juice, lemon zest, treacle, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg. Gently bring to a simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes. I’ve often done this in advance and left it overnight. When you’re ready to bake the cake, pour the soaked fruit mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and flaked almonds. Stir until everything is well combined. Pour into the lined tin and bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin. When the cake is cold, poke a few holes in the cake, drizzle with a little Amaretto, then wrap in baking paper and store in an airtight container.
If you’re decorating the cake with the fruit and nut topping, warm the apricot jam in a small pan over a low heat. If there are any lumps of fruit, strain through a sieve.
Brush the top of the cake with some jam, then stick the fruit and nuts onto the cake. Carefully brush the fruit and nuts with the remaining jam to add a lovely shine.