Spiced Christmas Cake with Ginger & Brandy

Spiced Christmas Cake with Ginger & Brandy

Meher Mirza takes on her mum’s traditional Christmas cake recipe, and tells you how to make it in no more than a few short hours.

This is a riff on my mum's time-honoured recipe for Christmas cake; she makes it months in advance, I did it in one morning. Into a saucepan, I poured dried fruit, thick and intensely sweet with musky ginger and wisps of lime zest, embalmed it all in alcohol and sugar, poured the lot into the flour mixture and baked. You can adjust the quantity of fruit as you go; just make sure you don't use sugared fruit, or the cake will sting your teeth with its treacly-sweetness.

10 oz butter
10 oz brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp almond essence
2 tbsp orange juice
6 eggs
8 oz plain flour
2 oz fine semolina
4 tbsp brandy or sherry or rum
1/4 level tsp salt 
1/2 level tsp soda bicarb
1/2 level tsp baking powder
8 oz raisins
8 oz sultanas
8 oz sour seedless currants
8 oz mixed dried berries
Rind of 1 lime and 1 orange, grated
4 oz mixed fruit peels
4 oz crystallised ginger
3 tsp mixed spices (I used nutmeg and cardamom powder; you can also include cinnamon, cloves, and allspice)
1 tbsp honey
4 oz almonds, ground 

Prepare your 9" cake tin by lining it with 3 layers of butter paper, on both the bottom and the sides. Make sure the paper on the sides is high enough to peek well over the top of the tin.

Clean and chop all your dried fruit. (This takes up to an hour, so plan accordingly)

Preheat the oven to 300 F.

Pour the fruit, butter, honey, sugar, salt, alcohol, rinds, ginger, spices, and orange juice into an enormous saucepan, stirring gently till it all reaches a boil. I like to add a touch more alcohol, stirring as you go, but you don't need to. Let it all simmer together for 15 minutes, then set aside to cool for an hour.

While the mixture cools, add together flour, semolina, soda bicarb, baking powder, eggs and almonds, and stir together with the vanilla and almond essences. Then fold this mixture into the cooked fruit, mix with a spatula, and pour into the prepared cake tin, making sure it is smoothed down evenly.

For the 1st half of the cooking time, cover the top of the cake tin with butter paper, then remove and let the cake bake unhindered. It usually takes about two to three to bake, but I usually play it by ear by inserting a tester in the middle (it should come out a little gooey in the middle). Once this is done, cool the cake on a wire rack, and eat.

Banner image credit: Aashim Tyagi