This recipe will produce a moist, dark fruit cake that stores well, and makes the most perfect Christmas fruit cake. The joy of it is that it requires very little effort to produce a very good result.
200g treacle sugar (sticky brown sugar)
1 cup water
75g pitted dates, broken into small pieces
100g candied peel
60g nuts, chopped
100g crystallised fruit
100g cherries, halved and washed under hot running water then drained and dusted with flour
1t bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, well beaten
240g cake flour
1t baking powder
¼ t salt
2T brandy, plus extra for dousing the cake
For the marzipan layer and icing
1 sheet marzipan or almond icing big enough to cover the top and sides of the cake
apricot jam, for brushing
2 egg whites
500g icing sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 150°C.
Gently heat the sugar, butter, water and dates in a heavy-based saucepan until melted. Add raisins, currants and sultanas and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 7 minutes then add the candied peel, nuts, crystallised fruit and cherries and simmer for 3 minutes (or until the fruit has plumped up and the dates have disintegrated).
Remove from heat and, while still warm, mix in the bicarb. When the mixture has cooled enough not to cook them, add the well-beaten eggs.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt and fold into the mixture. Lastly add the brandy, mix, and pour into a foil-lined tin.
Fold at least 12 sheets of newspaper to a height of about 30cm, wrap this around the circumference of the tin, and tie it with string. Stand the tin on 24 layers of newspaper, and cover the top with a sheet of foil sprinkled with water on the underside.
Bake for an hour; then reduce the temperature to 120°C and bake until cooked through (up to four hours), sprinkling the inside of the foil lid with water every 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, Cool to warm and douse with a mixture of 1⁄3 brandy and 2⁄3 sherry. Remove the foil and wrap the cake in plastic to store.
After a week, gently douse the underside of the cake with proof alcohol and wrap up again. Continue to feed the cake lightly with brandy alternatively on the base and then the top at weekly intervals until the cake is ready for decorating.
To make the marzipan layer and icing:
Roll out the marzipan, using icing sugar to prevent it sticking (if the marzipan is too hard, add a little egg white and almond essence, or some icing sugar if it gets too moist).
Brush the cake with apricot jam and press the sheet of marzipan over the top and sides of the cake firmly with your fingers, filling in gaps to make a smooth finish.
Gradually add the icing sugar to the egg whites until they cannot absorb more. Adjust the texture to a dropping consistency by adding lemon juice and beat well.
Place the cake on a cooling rack over a mixing bowl. Pour the icing over so it completely coats the cake and the excess drops into the bowl.
Then thicken the icing with icing sugar and work another layer over the cake, to stand in peaks.
Cook’s tips: If preferred, substitute rooibos for the alcohol when making the cake. Then, once it has cooled after baking, freeze it until required.
This recipe was created by Alicia Wilkinson of the Silwood School of Cookery, Silwood Kitchen www.silwood.co.za