This is my version of a Christmas cake that I have adapted over a number of years. It strikes a balance between the two pillars of a festive dessert table (the Christmas cake & the Christmas pudding) by being beautifully moist, headily spiced & generally delightful!
Minimalist decoration makes it a superb accompaniment to both cheese or custard/brandy sauce (each family has their preference & heaven forbid I align myself with a single option!)
In terms of preparation it couldn’t get much easier, & in terms of nutrition it’s about as ‘healthified’ as you’re going to get when it comes to traditional Christmas fare.
Infusing the fruit with natural spices does away with the need for drip feeding with alcohol for preparatory weeks on end & by harnessing their innate sweetness & moisture you can also eliminate additional sugar & butter from the mix too.
When choosing your dried fruits please aim to use organic products & check they are free from additional oils & sulphur dioxide which can be used to preserve them. There is no need to opt for Medjool dates in this recipe either, save them to eat by themselves & opt for a cheaper variety instead.
- 200ml walnut oil
- 500ml fresh apple or pear juice
- 300g soft eating dates
- 350g raisins
- 200g sultanas
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 300g ground almonds
- 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- zest of 1 orange
- 100g walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 thumb sized piece root ginger, peeled & roughly sliced.
- Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan assisted).
- Place the apple juice & walnut oil in a small saucepan & warm until the surface shimmers but doesn’t begin to boil. Turn the heat off, add the cinnamon stick & ginger slices, cover & leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile pit your dates (if they need to be) & chop into pieces roughly the same size as the other fruits.
- After the 10 minutes remove the cinnamon stick & ginger & add the dates, sultanas, raisins. Bring to a gentle simmer & cook for 6-8 minutes until the fruit is plump. There should still be a small amount of free moisture left.
- Transfer to a large mixing bowl & sprinkle over the bicarbonate of soda – it will bubble up vigorously at this point so make sure to use a bowl larger than you think you need! Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
- Take a 20x9cm round cake tin (a removable based one is best) Grease & line with baking parchment extending the paper all the way up the sides of the tin. Cut an additional piece to cover the top of the tin & extend halfway down the sides. Fold it in half & cut a small hole in the centre, leave this piece to one side for now.
- Fold the remaining ingredients into the dried fruit mixture reserving the walnuts until last so they are gently incorporated into the mix. Transfer to your lined tin, using the back of a spoon or spatula to smooth the surface.
- Cover the tin with your extra piece of parchment & use a piece of string or twisted piece of foil to secure it in place.
- Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 3 hours, using a skewer (& your clever hole 🙂 ) to test it after 2 1/2, if it comes out clean the cake is ready, if not back into the oven it goes.
- Once cooked remove from the oven & gently remove the outer collar (place the tin on a tall jar & you should be able to gently slip this down) Leave the cake to cool on the base before gently peeling away the baking parchment.
- The cake is good to go once cold but I personally prefer to leave it for at least a day before using. It will keep in an airtight container for 5 days, if your kitchen is particularly warm however I would keep it in the fridge.
- Decorate as you wish, I think the glorious amber suns of physalis or ruby jewels of redcurrants brilliantly contrast against the deep, dark stickiness of the cake & provide a brilliant burst of freshness to cut through the richness.