I love the idea of making Christmas cake. Honestly, I do! But I never seem to manage to bake one in November or whenever everyone else is doing it, and even if I do, it then gets lost in a cupboard somewhere and I forget to feed it and take care of it (it’s ‘Fluffy’ the sourdough starter all over again). This lovely cranberry, apricot and orange Christmas cake recipe is full of delicious fruit, and even better, you can just make it the week before Christmas (or even Christmas eve) and it will be delicious and moist and scented and Christmassy, even if you do nothing at all to it.
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what dried fruit you use in your Christmas cake. I’m not a fan of raisins, I find them too strong. I prefer softer dried fruit like sultanas, whole dried cranberries and soft dried apricots, and I love cutting through a cake and finding a whole glacé cherry. I’ve listed what I used (including some very weird pack sizes) but use whatever you like as long as the sum total comes to 800g.
Cranberry, apricot and orange Christmas cake
You will need:
110g whole dried cranberries
150g soft dried apricots
70g glacé cherries
175ml good quality rapeseed oil (or 200g butter)
200g dark brown sugar
4 tbsp honey
125ml Pedro Ximenez sherry (or brandy, or rum – anything with some warm flavours)
2 fresh oranges, zested then juiced
2 tsp pumpkin pie mix (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground ginger and a grating of nutmeg)
200g self raising flour (or 300g flour and omit the ground almonds).
100g ground almonds
Firstly, preheat the oven to gas 2/150 C and assemble everything you need: pick over and weigh out the fruit, crack the eggs and mix them, measure out the liquids, and line the bottom and sides of your cake tin/tins with parchment paper. If you’re using larger pieces of dried fruit like apricots or figs, make sure you’ve chopped them into roughly sultana-sized pieces.
Next, put all the dried fruit into a big saucepan and add in the oil, sugar, honey, sherry, fruit juice and spice. Stir it all together and heat gently until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Take it off the heat and leave it to cool. You don’t want to scramble the eggs when you add them in.
When cooled, stir in the eggs, flour and ground almonds. Pile into one large lined springform tin and bake for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Test by gently pressing on the top – it should spring back, and pushing a skewer or sharp knife into the centre of the cake. It should come out clean.
It does darken up considerably when it’s cooked. I don’t worry about it because it’s being covered in marzipan and icing, but if you’re leaving it ‘naked’, you can always bake it covered in foil for the last half hour so it doesn’t darken too much.
This is a lovely, moist cake, and it will keep beautifully now, well wrapped with baking paper, and then foil, until Christmas. If you want to, feel free to ‘feed’ it a couple of times by stabbing it with a cocktail stick and dribbling in a little sherry or brandy, but honestly, it’s a moist cake and it shouldn’t need it.
If you’re up for a bit of decorating, see my instructions for icing your Christmas cake: the marzipan and fondant icing layers here. As usual, any problems give me a shout on here or on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll do my best to help!