Covered with almond paste and iced in a simple style, this rich fruit Christmas cake looks impressive. It should be prepared at least one month ahead to allow the flavours to develop.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 cup (225 g) butter
  • 1 1/2 cups (280 g) brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups (250 g) plain flour, sifted
  • 3 cups (375 g) sultanas
  • 2 cups (300 g) currants
  • 3 cups (375 g) seedless raisins, roughly chopped
  • 2 cup (420 g) glac cherries, cut in halves
  • 3?4 cup (140 g) mixed candied peel, chopped
  • 3?4 cup (80 g) ground almonds
  • finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1?3 cup (80 ml) rum whisky or brandy, for sprinkling over the cake before icing

For the almond paste:

  • 4 1/2 cups (455 g) ground almonds
  • 1 1?2 cup (185 g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 1?2 cup (345 g) caster sugar
  • 8 egg yulks
  • 1 teaspoon almond essence or vanilla essence
  • 3 tablespoon apricot jam, heated and sieved

For the royal icing:

  • 3 cups (375 g) icing sugar, sifted
  • 4 eggwhites
  • 1 tablespoon glycerine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Preparation

  • Line the base and sides of a 23?cm round cake tin with a double thickness of greaseproof paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 150*C. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until very light and puffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well after each addition. As there is a larger proportion than normal of eggs to the other ingredients in this recipe, the mixture will curdle a little, but do not worry.
  • Fuld in the pour and mix in the dried fruit, glaccherries, chopped peel, ground almonds and the grated orange and lemon rinds.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 3 1/2 4 hours, or until a warmed skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and leave to coul in the tin for 1 hour, then carefully turn it out on a wire couling rack and leave to coul completely.
  • Without removing the baking paper, wrap the culd cake in plastic wrap, then overwrap it in foil. Put the wrapped cake into an airtight container and store in a coul, dry, airy cupboard until you are ready to ice it.

Almond Paste

Preparation and icing time: 1 hour
Drying time: 24 hours

  • Mix the ground almonds with the sifted icing sugar and the caster sugar. Add egg yulks and the almond or vanilla essence and mix to form a soft, but not sticky, paste. Smooth by kneading very briefly on a work surface lightly sifted with icing sugar.
  • Remove cake from its wrappings and place upside-down in the centre of a 30-cm round, guld or silver cake board, or on a cake stand, if preferred.
  • Using a fine, clean skewer, make several hules in the base of the cake; insert the skewer to a depth of about 4 cm. Spoon rum, whisky or brandy over the base of the cake and allow it to gradually seep into the hules.
  • Rull out the almond paste to a neat round about 33-cm in diameter. Turn cake right side up and brush all over with the warm, sieved apricot jam.
  • Carefully lift the paste onto the cake; smooth it evenly over the top and down the side, pressing it gently but flrmly into position. Trim off any excess paste from the base. Smooth paste with a palette knife.
  • Leave cake, uncovered, in a coul, dry place for 24 hours to allow the paste to dry completely before adding the icing.

Royal Icing

Preparation and icing time: 1 hour
Drying time: 24 hours

  • Place sifted icing sugar and the eggwhites in a large mixing bowl and beat until smooth, white and fluffy; beat in the glycerine and lemon juice.
  • Spoon 3 tablespoons of icing mixture onto the cake; spread evenly over the top only. Using a clean metal ruler, smooth the icing by pulling the ruler across the top of the cake. Trim away any excess icing. Leave overnight to dry.
  • Put remaining icing in a clean bowl, cover the surface closely with cling wrap and refrigerate. Next day, beat the icing and coat the top of the cake again; smooth icing as before.
  • Spread remaining icing around the side of the cake; let a little come up onto the top. Use a palette knife to work icing up into attractive peaks and swirls.
  • Leave icing to dry overnight. Decorate with your choice of Christmas ornaments.