If you like to bake you will probably know of Mary Berry and her Victorian-style Christmas cake which should be made well ahead of the big day (at least 3 weeks preferably 3 months). She uses currants, raisins and cherries soaked with rich sherry, to make a fruity and moist sponge topped with an easy royal icing and decorated with whatever you fancy.
You will need
175g (6 oz) raisins
350g (12 oz) glace cherries, rinsed, thoroughly dried and quartered
500g (1lb 2oz) currants
350g (12oz) sultanas
150ml (¼ pint) sherry, plus extra for feeding
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
250g (9oz) butter, softened
250g (9oz) light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp black treacle
75g (3oz) blanched almonds, chopped
75g (3oz) self-raising flour
175g (6oz) plain flour
1½ tsp mixed spice
About 3tbsp apricot jam, sieved and warmed
675g shop-bought almond paste
Packet royal icing mix to cover 23cm/9in cake
So Mary says “Put all the dried fruit in a container, pour over the sherry and stir in the orange zest. Cover, and leave to soak for 3 days, stirring daily. Grease and line a 23cm (9in) deep round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 140C, 120C fan, gas 1.
Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a very large bowl and beat well. Add the flours and mixed spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the mixture. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 4-4½ hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown.
When cooked and cooled, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little extra sherry. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place for up to 3 months, feeding at intervals with more sherry. As the big day approaches unwrap the cake and decorate with almond paste and royal icing.