As-you-like-it Christmas cake2013-12-16
Use your choice of dried fruit, nuts, citrus zest and booze (or even tea) and get your cake made up to six months in advance
Prep: 50 mins Cook: 2 hrs – 2 hrs, 30 mins
Cuts into 10-12 slices
150ml sherry, brandy, rum or brewed tea, plus extra for feeding
zest and juice 2 oranges, 2 lemons or 4 clementines
250g pack unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for the tin
250g light, soft brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice
100g whole or flaked almonds, chopped hazelnuts, walnuts or brazil nuts (optional)
Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Butter and double-line a deep cake tin – 20cm round or 18cm square – with enough baking parchment to come about 2.5cm above the top of the tin. Wrap the outside of the tin with a few sheets of newspaper, securing with staples or string.
Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy, then beat in the eggs one by one. Tip in the flour, mixed spice, soaked dried fruit and any liquid from the bowl, plus your chosen nuts, if using. Stir everything together, then scrape into the cake tin. Using the back of your spoon, make a slight dent in the centre of the mixture, then bake for 1½ hrs.
Reduce oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1, loosely cover the top of the cake with a double sheet of foil or baking parchment, and bake for another 45 mins-1 hr or until a skewer poked right to the bottom comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then lift out and wrap in greaseproof paper or baking parchment. Keep in a cake tin with a tight-fitting lid, or wrapped in a large sheet of foil, in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. Open the cake every week or two to feed by poking with a skewer in several places and dribbling over a little more of your chosen alcohol or tea.