195minutes cooking time
7oz soft brown sugar (I use dark muscovado for the colour and taste)
zest (grated rind) of one orange
1 tbspn black treacle
4 lge or 5 med eggs
10oz plain flour
1/4 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tspn salt
1/4 tspn each of cinnamon, powdered cloves, ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice (or more if you like the cake spicy)
2oz chopped almonds
4oz glace cherries - cut into small pieces
2 - 4oz mixed peel
1 - 1.5 lbs dried fruit
2 tbspns brandy, rum or sherry (sherry is my favourite for cakes, although this is optional)
1. Double line your large cake tin and preheat the oven to 150C
2. Cream butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy and then add the treacle and beat mixture a little longer.
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each one - unless they curdle. Don't worry if they curdle as mine always do but the finished cake is always divine.
4. Sieve all dry ingredients together and fold into the wet mixture, then fold in all the fruit and nuts.
5. Pour cake mixture into your double-lined tin and smooth it off - I always make an indentation in the top (sloping towards the middle) as, even without any raising agent, the cake rises and I want it to end up as flat as possible for decorating.
6. Bake for an hour at 150C then turn the oven down to 140C and continue baking for a further 2.25 hours or until a skewer, inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out clean. I usually turn the oven off after 2 hours and allow the cake to cool over night.
7. Turn the cake out of the tin once cool and prick all over with a skewer then 'feed' the cake by dribbling your preferred choice of alcohol evenly over the top of the cake for at least a couple of weeks - according to taste.
A variation is to soak the fruit and nuts in alcohol for around 48 hours and then prepare the mix as usual but divide the cake mix between 2 - 3 dozen cake cases in bun tins. They only need baking for about an hour and can be made a lot closer to Christmas.
8. A couple of weeks before Christmas cover your cake in apricot jam (to settle the crumbs) and then a layer of marzipan (you will need 2 - 3 lbs). Then a week before Christmas, cover with your choice of icing - royal or fondant. I like fondant because the scope for decoration is greater - and it is easier. If I make the cup cakes, I simply use a star pastry cutter, cut shapes from the marzipan and fondant icing and sprinkle with edible glitter - I think there may be some photos in my Facebook albums of these.
This lovely rich fruit cake can be used for all occasions that need rich fruit cakes - weddings, birthdays and can even be used as the base for a Simnel cake at Easter.
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