The best Christmas cake recipe I’ve tried to date. And I’ve tried many. And it’s easy to make and deliciously and darkly moist, writes Ingrid Shevlin
Every year at Christmas I try out a new recipe for Christmas cake in search of the Holy Grail of fruitcakes. This year I tried Eric Lanlard’s chocolate and orange fruit cake from his new book, Home Bake. It’s too early to cut it, but it looks good. And the batter tasted fantastic.
The recipe below is the closest I’ve come to fruitcake perfection and I’ve returned to it again and again. It’s by Nigella Lawson and is from an old book of hers called Nigella Christmas. As you will see it includes prunes. Most people grimace when they think of prunes but you don’t taste them here and they add an unmatched lusciousness and moisture to the cake. Even better it’s not one you have to make months in advance. You can eat it within a day or two of baking, but making it two weeks ahead is also fine. And it keeps for ever.
My family and friends love it.
Because I love nuts I add 150g of chopped almonds or pecans. Sometimes walnuts, but I think they are over-rated.
AN INCREDIBLY EASY CHCOLATE FRUITCAKE
350g dried soft prunes, chopped
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g dark muscovado sugar
125ml coffee liqueur like Tia Maria
2 oranges, juice and zest only
1 tsp mixed spice
2 Tbsp good quality cocoa
3 free-range eggs, beaten
150g plain flour
75g ground almonds
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Nuts of choice – optional
25g/1oz dark chocolate covered coffee beans
Disco Gold hologram glitter
2mm gold mini balls
approx 10 gold stars
1 Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas mark 2.
2 Line the sides and bottom of a 20cm/9cm deep, round loose-bottomed cake tin with a layer of bake-o-glide or other reusable silicon-baking parchment. When lining the tin with the bake-o-glide, cut the material into strips that are twice as high as the tin itself (it’s easier to use two shorter strips of bake-o-glide, than one long strip); the height of the strips protects the cake from catching on the outside of the cake tin. (I use lots of brown paper instead which I wrap around the sides at least four times to prevent it burning. I keep in place with string).
3 Place the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, coffee liqueur, orange juice and zest, mixed spice and cocoa into a large wide saucepan. Heat the mixture until it reaches a gentle boil, stirring the mixture as the butter melts. Let the mixture simmer for ten minutes. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
4 After 30 minutes, the mixture will have cooled a little. Add the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate soda (and nuts), and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients have combined.
5 Carefully pour the fruit cake mixture into the bake-o-glide lined cake tin. Transfer the cake tin to the oven and bake for 1¾-2 hours, or until the top of the cake is firm but will has a shiny and sticky look. At this point, if you insert a cake tester into the middle of the cake, the cake should still be a little uncooked in the middle. (Start testing it at 1 1/2 hours as you don’t want to overcook).
6 Place the cake on a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled, remove it from the tin.
7 To decorate, place the chocolate covered coffee beans in the centre of the cake and arrange the gold starts around the perimeter of the top of the cake. Then sprinkle some gold mini-balls over the whole of the cake. Sprinkle the Disco Gold Hologram Glitter over the top of the cake. (Obviously all this is optional)