Whether you are in November and thinking about baking your Christmas cake so it has plenty of time for the flavours to develop, or whether its Christmas Eve and you are rushing to get everything done, then this last minute Christmas cake recipe will provide you with that delicious deep Christmassy flavour whether you make it 2 months or 2 days before Christmas. The secret is cooking together many of the ingredients in a saucepan before baking, which speeds up the flavour development in the cake and helps to keep the cake lovely and moist.
I have chosen to use dried cherries instead of glacé and to add a little cherry jam as I love the slight tang of the cherry against the sweetness of the cake. I also add in some spiced rum in place of the more traditional brandy as I think it really adds to all the spices in the mixture. My current fave is Lugger Spiced Rum made by Lyme Bay Winery, just over the boarder in Devon.
3oz dried cherries
1 lemon (zest and juice)
1 orange (zest and juice)
2tbsp rum (spiced rum works really well here but you can also use sherry or brandy)
1tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1tbsp cherry jam
6oz soft brown sugar
7oz plain flour
In a large saucepan add the currants, sultanas, dried cherries, orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, rum, mixed spice, cinnamon, jam, butter and sugar. Cook together on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly so that it doesn't burn on the bottom
and all the sugar and butter melt and coat the fruit. Take off the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
Whilst the ingredients are cooling, spend some time lining your 8′′ round tin. As laborious and fiddly as this step is, it is well worth the effort as it helps stop the edges from drying out. Line the insides with 2 layers of baking parchment. Then take some brown paper and line the outside of the tin, making sure to have a couple of inches above the tin too, and tie with string to secure.
Preheat the oven to 140 fan/gas mark 1.
Once the fruit mixture has cooled, carefully stir in the eggs. Then stir in the flour. Place the mixture in the tin and then bake in the oven for 2.5 hours. Check the cake every 15-30 minutes after the initial 2.5 hours, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin.
Once cold, the cake can be covered with a layer of marzipan and icing ready for Christmas Day. If you have made the cake in advance, once the cake is cold, wrap the cake in a layer of baking parchment, a layer of foil and place in an airtight container. You can bake up to 3 months in advance and keep the cake in this way. About 1 week before Christmas, you can ice the cake however you fancy.
If you would like to – every 2 weeks, poke the cake a number of times with a skewer and spoon over some more rum. This is called ‘feeding’ the cake (and it also makes the cake slightly alcoholic so be careful if you know children will be eating the cake!).