I realize my fellow Americans are not going to take much notice of this recipe, but in England and New Zealand, (my other two homes) one cannot have Christmas without this cake. My husband, (LA born too) adores this and requests it every year and I have been making this recipe since the mid 1980’s. It is rich, moist as anything and chock-full of dried fruits soaked in brandy. It’s important to make this cake a good month to 2 months before Christmas and “feed” it every week with brandy. Divine!!
1lb (450g) currants
6 oz (175g) golden raisins (sultanas)
6 oz (175g) raisins
2 oz (50g) glace cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
2 oz (50g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
4 tbsp brandy, plus extra for “feeding”
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1/2 level tsp salt
1/4 level tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 level tsp ground mixed spice (not allspice)
8 oz (225g) unsalted butter
8 oz (225g) soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 oz (50g) almonds, chopped (the skins can be left on)
1 tbsp black treacle. (I have been known to use molasses if I don’t have treacle)
grated zest 1 lemon
grated zest 1 orange
4 oz (110g) whole blanched almonds (only if you don’t intend to ice the cake and want to use these almonds as decoration instead)
* You will need an 8 inch round cake tin or a 7″ square cake tin, preferably with a loose bottom. Grease the tin and line it with baking parchment. Tie a band of brown paper or newspaper around the outside of the tin for extra protection
** Begin this cake the night before you want to cook it. All you do is weigh out the dried fruit and mixed peel, place it in a large mixing bowl and mix in the brandy, stirring, so everything is evenly coated with the brandy. Cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth and leave the fruit aside to absorb the brandy for 12 hours.
Next day, preheat the oven to 275 F. (140 C)
Now measure out all the other ingredients, ticking them off to make sure you don’t miss anything. The treacle will be easier if you dip the spoon in hot water before using it.
Sift the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing.
Next, in a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it’s light, pale and fluffy.
Now beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time: keep the whisk running until all the egg is incorporated. If you add the eggs slowly by degrees like this, the mixture won’t curdle. If it does, don’t worry, any cake full of such beautiful things can’t fail to taste good!
When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices, using gentle movements and not beating at all as you need to keep that precious air in it.
Now fold in the fruit, peel, chopped nuts and treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.
Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon, and, if you don’t intend to ice the cake, lightly drop the blanched almonds in circles or squares all over the surface.
*Alternately, you don’t need to put anything on top of the cake, as my picture shows.
Finally, cover the top of the cake with a double square of parchment paper with a small 1″ diameter hole in the center. (This gives extra protection during the long, slow cooking)
Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4 & 1/2 to 4 & 3/4 hours. Sometimes it can take up to 1/2 to 3/4 hour longer than this, but in any case don’t look in the oven till at least 4 hours have passed.
Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.
When it’s cold, “feed” it – make small holes in the top and base of the cake with a skewer or knitting needle, then spoon over a few tsps of brandy, wrap it in parchment paper secured with an elastic band and either wrap it again with foil or store it in an airtight container.
You can now feed it every week until you want to eat it.
You can make this cake up to 3 months in advance, feeding every week!