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By Sharon Hearne Smith
This Christmas cake is light and fruity and tastes almost like a cross between a traditional Christmas cake and a Christmas pudding. I call it modern because it’s free from gluten and dairy, so it suits many dietary requirements. Having said that, though, you can of course cover this in the traditional way with marzipan and icing paste if you like – just omit the nut topping used here. Unlike a traditional Christmas cake, it isn’t necessarily better to make it a couple of months in advance, but it can be made up to a few weeks ahead and kept well wrapped in the fridge. The newspaper wrapping prevents the outside from browning too much, so it’s a step worth doing.
Preparation time: 20 minutes•
Cooking time: 90 minutes
Serves: 15 people
*This recipe serves 15 to 20.
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3. Grease a 20cm round tin with oil, then line the base and sides with non-stick baking paper and grease them too. Wrap an old newspaper around the outside of the tin and secure it in place with string. Set aside on a baking sheet.
2. Pop the hazelnuts into a food processor and pulse a few times, until roughly chopped. Toss into a large bowl with the ground almonds and spices and set aside.
3. Next, working in separate batches, blitz the dates, apricots and figs in the processor until roughly chopped (but not paste-like). Tip into the bowl of a food mixer and add the cranberries, raisins and sultanas. Add the orange zest and juice and the lemon zest and give everything a good mix. Add the eggs and oil and mix together well. Finally, add the dry ingredients and mix together until well combined.
4. Spoon into the tin, pressing down as you go, then spread the top level. To decorate the top, pop one pecan nut, pretty side up, in the centre of the cake. Lay 10 more pecans pointing outwards in a circle around this, then arrange the remaining pecans in a circle around this. Press down lightly on the nuts to set them into place.
5. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes, until cooked through. A skewer pierced into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake in the tin for about 20 minutes before carefully removing and leaving to cool completely.
6. To finish, brush the pecans with edible gold paint. You can brush the side of the cake too if liked, using two or three coats for maximum effect. Tie a ribbon around the cake and decorate with the Seasons Greetings tag and holly leaves set if liked.
Tip: ‘Feed’ this cake with 50ml brandy, whiskey or amaretto if liked. Press a skewer down through the cake in several places, then slowly spoon the alcohol over, allowing it to seep down.