Christmas pudding cake
A Christmas cake and pudding in one simple cut out! Frances Quinn's ingenious Christmas cake combines two classics in one with this simple technique.
- 150g/5½oz mixed dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins and currants
- 150g/5½oz dried cranberries
- 150g/5½oz pitted soft prunes
- 150g/5½oz pitted soft-dried dates
- 150g/5½oz dried figs
- 150ml/5fl oz brandy, plus optional extra to ‘feed’ the cake
- finely grated zest and juice of ½ orange
- 150g/5½oz mixed whole nuts
- 150g/5½oz butter, softened
- 150g/5½oz dark muscovado sugar
- 3 tbsp black treacle or date syrup, optional
- 3 free-range eggs (at room temperature), beaten
- 150g/5½oz self-raising flour
- 3 tbsp ground mixed spice
Put the mixed dried fruit and cranberries in a bowl. Using kitchen scissors, snip the prunes, dates and figs into small pieces, removing any stalks, and drop into the bowl. Add the brandy and orange zest and juice, and stir well to combine. Cover the bowl with a shower cap, clingfilm or plate and leave to soak in a cool place for at least 12 hours or, even better, 2 days.
When you’re ready to make the cake, grease and line a 20cm/8in round loose-bottomed tin and preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
Spread the nuts on a baking tray and toast, checking frequently to be sure they don’t burn, for 5–10 minutes or until fragrant (you can skip the toasting, but it really brings out their flavour). Cool, then chop the nuts – I like them relatively chunky to contrast with the fruit. Turn the oven down to 140C/120C Fan/Gas 1.
Using a hand-held electric whisk (it’s tricky to beat this small quantity in a free-standing mixer), beat together the butter and sugar for 5–10 minutes or until very light and creamy. Beat in the treacle or syrup, if using. Gradually add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour and spice into the mixture and fold in. Finally, stir through the soaked fruit, with any liquid left in the bowl, and the chopped nuts.
Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon dipped in hot water. Bake for 2¼–2½ hours or until the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Set the tin on a wire rack. If you want to ‘feed’ the cake, leave it to cool for about 15 minutes, then prick the top all over with a cocktail stick or skewer, going about 3cm deep. Brush over about 1 tablespoon of brandy. Leave to soak in while the cake is cooling. Once the cake is cold, remove from the tin and wrap in fresh baking parchment, if you like, and then in foil before storing in an airtight tin or container for at least 5 days before eating. You can repeat the feeding process weekly for up to 5 weeks.
When you’re ready to finish the cake, gently heat the apricot jam and spread over the surface of the cake. Roll out the marzipan to about the thickness of a pound coin and cover the whole cake. Roll out the fondant icing to the same thickness and cover the cake completely, pressing down to smooth it out.
Place a round template, plate or round cake tin smaller than the diameter of your cake on the top and cut around it with a knife or scalpel. Carefully remove the circle of fondant and marzipan to reveal your naked cake inner circle.
Using the template you used before to help yout, cut out a simple custard shape from the marzipan circle. Press this into the top of your cut out circle to create the custard effect. Next carefully spoon some mincemeat into the remainder of the cut out shape to produce a plump looking pudding, or leave out entirely if you want. Finally place and position your holly, cherries or cranberries into the top of the pudding shape to finish.
Although adding the mincemeat gives both an extra dimension and flavour, feel free to leave it out and rely instead on the naked cake itself to create the Christmas pudding appearance.