Ice and easy

PUBLISHED: 05:43 10 November 2014

Mary Kemp 
Christmas cake with the help of Hannah Rowberry of Honeysuckle Cakes, Norwich

Mary Kemp Christmas cake with the help of Hannah Rowberry of Honeysuckle Cakes, Norwich

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

If I can, my Christmas cakes are made by the end of November, giving them lots of time to mature and to feed them with a little brandy.

If I can, my Christmas cakes are made by the end of November, giving them lots of time to mature and to feed them with a little brandy.

If time allows, I will marzipan and ice them, then decorate with holly leaves and berries the week before Christmas. But things don’t always work that way and on Christmas Eve the cake sometimes has ended up with a quick and easy snow effect of royal icing, topped with that faithful Father Christmas I have had since we were first married!

There is an art and a patient talent that goes with cake decorating, a quality that young chef Hannah Rowberry has, and which she has turned into a growing business. Based in Norwich as Honeysuckle Cakes, she creates cakes for all occasions, so, to inspire me and, I hope, you too, I asked her to come over to decorate my Christmas cake and some Christmas cupcakes.

Wonderful rich fruit cake

There are no hard and fast rules. Your Christmas cake can be made with your favourite dried fruits; add nuts to the recipe if you like nuts. Change the proportions of the various fruits, but the total quantity must be about the same as the recipe. The cake mix must not vary as it’s the glue that keeps the cake together as it bakes and sets.

You must have a deep 8in cake tin for this recipe. If you don’t, use a 9in one – the cake won’t be as deep, but it won’t erupt over the edge of the tin! You can wrap the outside of the tin with brown paper tied with string, but if you have a saucepan or casserole dish slightly deeper and wider than your cake tin, cook your cake in this and it will protect the edges.

200g dark glace cherries

280g sultanas

280g raisins – Lexia or muscatel

100g currants

170g mixed peel

40g dried pineapple and papaya

110g glace ginger peel chopped

4 x tsp good marmalade

3 tbsp black treacle

Zest of one unwaxed lemon finely grated

Zest of one orange finely grated

1 heaped tsp mixed spice

6 x tbsp brandy, plus more to feed the cake

250g butter

180g self-raising flour

1 tsp salt

250g dark muscavado sugar

160g ground almonds

5 eggs, lightly beaten

1 Wash the syrup from the cherries and dry well. In a large bowl mix all the fruit, marmalade, black treacle, the lemon and orange rind, the spice and six tablespoons of brandy. Cover the bowl with cling film or a cloth and leave to soak overnight.

2 Pre-heat the oven to 140C/gas mark 1. Line a deep, round 8in cake tin. Weigh out all the ingredients, sifting the flour and salt.

3 In an electric mixer or with an electric hand mixer beat the sugar and butter together until thick, pale and creamy. Stir in the ground almonds and then gradually add the eggs. Once you have added all the eggs, fold in all the flour and salt with a large metal spoon, then combine the cake mix with the soaked fruit, creating a rich fruity batter.

4 Scrape the mix into the prepared cake tin, stand the tin in a large saucepan or casserole dish, and cover with a sheet of baking parchment with a small hole cut in the middle. Bake for a good two-and-three-quarters to three hours. Start checking the cake after two and a half hours, and don’t panic if it takes more than three hours; it is very rich and make take a bit longer. The best way to check is by popping a fine skewer in the middle and if it comes out dry and clean the cake is cooked.

5 Leave it in the tin to cool, then remove it and wrap it in baking parchment. Store in a cool place.

6 After a few days, prick with a skewer and feed with a tablespoon of brandy. Repeat every week. Marzipan and ice.

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