- Food & Drink
During one of my occasional back sweeps through the blog, I realised this recipe had vanished into the sinkhole that opened up when I moved the site from its original home to this shiny new palace. So I’ve rescued it in time for Stir Up Sunday.
This is a Christmas cake that I’ve been making, on and off, for about 10 years. More off than on recently, as my mum also makes a Christmas cake and it became apparent that we didn’t really need two fruitcakes. They lingered, sometimes making it all the way to Easter, when they were replaced by a Simnel cake.
I carried on making Christmas cakes for a while and served them at Christmas parties, but fewer and fewer people took slices. Which worries me. If people stop eating fruitcake, then what will happen to the marzipan?
I love marzipan with the sort of deep, fiery passion that people normally reserve for gods and cats. But Britain doesn’t seem to share my love, unlike Europe where you can buy bars of marzipan to nibble on with your cuppa. So Christmas cake and wedding cake were my only opportunities to indulge in almond paste.
And now people are making chocolate sponge cakes for both of these occasions and there is no marzipan to be had. It’s very troubling.
So you should make some fruitcakes for Christmas. Feed them booze. Look after them. Then blanket them in marzipan and icing (bonus points for royal icing that crunches like boots on snow when you bite into it) and then share them with me.
Port & Orange Christmas Cake
Makes 1 20cm round cake or 2 450g loaf cakes
675g mixed dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins, currants, dried apricots and dried cranberries
100g whole glacé cherries
Zest and juice of 1 orange
150ml port, plus extra for feeding
225g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
255g soft light brown sugar
1 tbsp black treacle
255g plain flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
75g whole hazelnuts
Place the dried fruit, chopped if necessary, and glacé cherries in a large bowl and stir in the orange zest and juice and the port. Cover and leave overnight to soak, or for a few days if you’re a tiny bit forgetful like me.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 3. Grease the base and sides of a 20cm round cake tin or 2 x 900g loaf tins with butter. Line the base with baking paper and line the sides with paper so it comes 2 inches above the tin. Set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and combined, then beat in the treacle. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and spices and stir to make a smooth batter. Stir in the fruit, any port left in the bowl and the hazelnuts.
Scrape the batter into the cake tin(s) and level off the top with the back of your spoon or spatula. The cake won’t rise much, so if it’s lumpy and uneven when it goes into the oven, it’ll be lumpy and uneven when it comes out. Bake the cake(s) for 1–11/2 hours until firm to the touch and golden. A skewer inserted should come out relatively clean, depending on how much fruit you hit when you stick it in. If it begins to burn while it’s baking, cover the top of the cake with baking paper.
Poke a few small holes in the top of the cake(s) with a skewer and pour 1 tbsp port over the top (I’d also use 1 tbsp port per loaf cake rather than 1/2 tbsp). Cool in tin(s). Once cold, remove from the tin(s) and wrap the baking parchment around the cake, or peel off the old parchment and wrap in a fresh layer. Wrap in a layer of foil and store in an airtight tin. Feed the cake(s) once a week with 1–2 tbsp port. The cake(s) will keep for up to a year, although if you’re going to keep it that long you may want to ease up on the weekly feedings or you’ll have to drink it rather than eat it.