I’m posting this recipe in November, because this cake is best made well in advance, kept wrapped in foil in an airtight container, and “fed” with a tablespoon of brandy once a week until you are ready to decorate it. Omit the brandy for about a week before you are ready to put on the marzipan as that will help it to stick properly.
The recipe was found on the BBC Food website and has been made year in year out at our Inverness B&B ever since! Don’t forget to get every member of the family to take a turn to stir the cake and make a wish – it’s been a tradition in the White household since I was a little girl.
225 g plain flour
1/4 teaspoonful salt
1/2 teaspoonful mixed spice
1/2 teaspoonful cinnamon
200 g butter
200 g dark brown sugar
2 tablespoonfuls black treacle
1 tablespoonful marmalade
1/4 teaspoonful vanilla extract
4 large eggs, beaten
800 g mixed dried fruits
100 g chopped mixed peel
150 g chopped glace cherries
100 g chopped blanched almonds
200 g ready-made marzipan
1 – 2 tablespoonfuls apricot jam (sieved)
1 pack of ready made fondant icing
Heat the oven to 150 c, 300 F, Gas Mark 2. Grease a 20 cm round or 18 cm square cake tin, and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
Sieve the flour, salt, mixed spice and cinnamon into a bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the treacle, marmalade and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the eggs, adding a spoonful of flour if the mixture starts to separate. Fold in the remaining flour until well mixed, and then add the dried fruits and nuts and stir through until fully combined.
Turn the mixture into the prepared tin, and level the top making a slight dip in the centre. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 3 hours and then test with a skewer in the middle. If it is not cooked, continue to bake, testing the cake with a skewer every 20 minutes until the skewer comes out clean. If the top of the cake is looking cooked, use a piece of foil to prevent further browning.
Remove cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack until completely cool. When cold, make holes across the top of the cake and pour over 3 tablespoons brandy, letting it soak into the cake.
Store the cake wrapped in foil in an airtight container, holes side up. Spoon over a tablespoon (or two) of brandy every week until you are ready to marzipan and ice the cake.
Finishing the cake
I use ready made marzipan and icing, but you can make your own if you prefer. Place the cake on a board and secure with a little icing. Brush the cake all over the top and sides with warmed, sieved apricot jam. Using a little icing sugar to dust your surface, knead the marzipan, then roll out evenly until it is large enough to cover the top of the cake. Re-roll the remainder to cut strips to cover the sides of the cake, and wet your finger to press the joins to form a good seal. Cover the cake with a clean tea towel and leave it in a cool place for at least 24 hours for the marzipan to dry out a little.
Using a little icing sugar to dust your surface, roll out the fondant icing until it is large enough to cover the whole cake, and using the rolling pin, lift it onto the top of the cake, and use your hands to smooth the surface and to mould it into shape around the sides. Trim off the excess, and re-roll it to make your decorations. I use a set of small cutters from Lakeland to form my snowflakes, and just make the bottom of each a little moist with warm water to help them to stick well. Finish cake with a ribbon, and store in an airtight container until the big day.