Here's a recipe to round off the festive bunch - really, this should have gone first as it's one that can be made well ahead of time! I made this one month before Christmas, but you can make it much earlier if you plan well! So long as you keep feeding your cake with alcohol, it will keep preserved and the flavour will only get richer. Traditional Christmas cakes usually are iced with a layer of marzipan followed by a layer of royal icing, but I omitted the marzipan and used a fun fondant make from melted marshmallows. The fondant naturally took on a 'snow-capped' look, which was perfect for the festive holiday!
Ingredients (makes 1 x 9" round cake)
500g mixed dried fruit
zest and juice of 1/2 orange
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
75ml brandy, whisky or rum
125g softened butter
100g light brown sugar
85g plain flour
50g ground almonds
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
50g flaked almonds
1/2 tsp vanilla
Marshmallow fondant frosting
300g white marshmallows
550g icing sugar
1 tbsp water
Small decorations - I used edible gold stars
1) Put the dried fruit, zest and juice, alcohol, butter and sugar in a large pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Turn down and simmer for 5 minutes, before tipping the mixture into a large bowl and leaving to cool for 30 mins.
2) Heat your oven to 150C/gas mark 2/130C fan oven. and line a 9" cake tin with baking paper.
3) Add all the remaining ingredients to your fruit bowl and stir well, making sure there are no lumps or pockets of flour left. Pour the batter into your cake tin and smooth down the surface. Bake in the middle of the oven for 2 hours (your house will smell amazingly festive during this time!)
4) Remove the cake from the oven and poke holes in it with a skewer or chopstick. Leaving the cake in the tin, spoon over the top 2 tbsp of whichever alcohol you're using and let it cool completely.
5) Once cool, remove the baking paper and wrap tightly in cling film. Store in an airtight tin, taking it out every two weeks to feed it with 1-2 tbsp of alcohol. Don't feed it for the final week before serving it, to give it a chance to dry out before icing.
For the fondant
1) Over a double boiler, melt down the marshmallows with a splash of water. This will take a while, but just keep stirring to prevent catching and it will get there eventually. This can also be done in the microwave, by heating in short bursts.
2) Once smooth, stir in the icing sugar until it forms a paste.
3) Transfer the paste to the top of your cake - I used my hands, but it was very messy, so I'd advise spoons! Use a spatula or knife to create peak and swirl patterns in the fondant. Sprinkle over your decorations and tie a festive ribbon around the cake. Merry Christmas!