Traditional Christmas Cake

For the best flavour make the cake at least a couple of weeks before cutting then cover with readymade marzipan and ready rolled white icing a day or so before. Makes one large cake.

INGREDIENTS

650g luxury dried fruit mix
150ml Guinness or good stout (plus 3 tablespoons to finish)
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g soft dark muscovado sugar
4 large free-range eggs, beaten to mix
250g Marriage’s Finest plain white flour
2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
50g ground almonds

To finish:

800g ready made marzipan
2 tablespoons apricot jam (or a little extra Guinness or stout)
900g ready rolled white icing
A cake board or platter and decorations


METHOD

    1. Combine the dried fruit mixture and the 150ml Guinness or stout in a bowl, cover and leave to soak at least 3 hours, preferably overnight, stirring occasionally.

    2. Next day heat the oven to 150°C/300F/Gas 2. Grease and line (base and sides) a 21.5cm/ 8 1⁄2 inch deep round cake tin or spring clip tin. Using a large electric mixer or electric hand whisk beat the soft butter with the sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition and adding a tablespoon of flour with the final additions to prevent the mixture curdling. Sift the rest of the flour and the mixed spice into the bowl. Gently fold in with a large metal spoon. Add the ground almonds, walnuts and the soaked fruit mixture (plus any liquid) and fold in carefully. When thoroughly combined spoon into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 3 hours until a golden brown and skewer inserted in to the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave until completely cold then remove the tin and lining paper. Prick the base and top of the cake with a cocktail stick and trickle a little more Guinness or stout into the holes. Leave to soak in then wrap in fresh greaseproof and foil and leave until ready to finish.

    3. To cover the cake with marzipan: set the cake on a cake board (turn upside down if the top isn’t flat) and brush all over with a little apricot jam, Guinness or stout. Lightly dust the work surface with icing sugar, knead the block of marzipan until smooth and pliable then roll out to a circle large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Carefully wrap the marzipan around the rolling pin then lift it over the cake. Gently unroll the marzipan so the edge just touches the cake board. Then continue unrolling the marzipan over the cake so it covers the cake evenly and touches the board all around. Using the palm of your hand smooth the marzipan on the top surface and down the sides of the cake to make sure it is well fixed. Trim the excess marzipan flush with the board. If possible leave to dry for one to two days.

    4. To cover the cake with icing: Brush the marzipan with a little more Guinness or stout so the icing will stick. Unwrap the ready rolled icing and cover the cake as for the marzipan. With your palm, spotlessly clean and dry, smooth and polish the surface of the icing – don’t press too hard or there will be dents. Leave in a cool dry place until ready to decorate with Christmas figures, candles, ribbons or decorations.

The East of England Co-op is calling on baking enthusiasts to roll up their sleeves and start prepping for a Yuletide treat that’s guaranteed to provide loved ones with a slice of happiness