Amaretto; my tipple of choice at Christmas time. Even Santa is left an iced glass of the smooth almond liqueur on Christmas Eve; for his troubles. He clearly loves it as much as I do, as the glass is always empty come the morning…..
I thought I would jazz up the traditional christmas fruit cake this year by adding my favourite liqueur in place of brandy. I was flicking through some traditional recipes, thinking how I might adapt them, when I came across a recipe for a Drambuie and orange cake in one of my old delicious magazines. I thought that orange zest and juice would compliment the amaretto nicely, so why not give it a whirl!? As I was stepping away from the traditional, with the liqueur, I also altered some of the dried fruits to include dried cranberries and sour cherries.
I’m listing the ingredients and method having only baked the cake up until now. It is currently wrapped up ready for decorating in a months time, so I have no idea what it tastes like yet – it is a bit of an experiment for me, so the proof will be in the, errr, tasting of the pudding…..
The recipe below is for a 9″(23cm) cake tin.
Ingredients (stage one):
225g dried cranberries
200g candied peel
200g dried apricots
100g glace cherries
75g sour cherries
zest and juice of 2 oranges
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon
Method (stage one):
wash, dry and quarter the glace cherries. Chop the apricots and sour cherries to the same size. Place all the dried fruit, amaretto, zest and juice into a pan. Bring to the boil, stir, cover and simmer for 5 mins. Pour into a bowl, cover and leave overnight.
Ingredients (stage two):
Soaked fruit mixture (above)
275g dark muscovado sugar
275g soft margarine
5 medium eggs – beaten
275g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
50g ground almonds
150g chopped almonds
1 tbsp black treacle
Method (stage two):
Preheat your oven to 140c/120c(fan)/gas 1.
Grease and line a 9″ cake tin, and tie a thick layer of newspaper around the outside of the tin. Put another thick layer of newspaper on a baking tray, and place the cake tin on top. This will prevent the edges of the cake from the heat of the oven and cooking too quickly.
Cream the fat and sugar until light and fluffy. An electric whisk would make this easier, but using a wooden spoon will do the same job-it just takes a little longer. You can check if your mixture has been creamed enough by placing a little blob of mixture into a bowl of cold water. If the mixture floats, it has been sufficiently creamed (the process of creaming adds air to the mixture).
Add the beaten eggs little by little, beating in well each time. Eggs at room temperature are best to use, as they will be less likely to curdle the mixture. However, if it looks as though it is beginning to curdle, add a tablespoon of the flour.
Fold in the sifted flour, salt, spices, soaked fruit mixture, chopped and ground almonds, treacle and marmalade until combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, making sure that it is level on the top. Make indentations all over the surface of the cake mixture. This will prevent the cake from rising in the middle, and give a nice flat top instead.
Fold a large piece of greaseproof paper (larger than the top of the cake tin), fold in half and cut a small circle out of the middle (about 2cm diameter). Placing this sheet carefully over the top of tha cake tin will prevent the top of the cake from cooking too quickly, also helping to retain the moisture of the cake.
Bake on a low shelf for about 4-5 hours, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Mine took about 5 and a half hours, but I checked at regular intervals after 4 hours of cooking.
Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool before removing from the tin. Carefully remove the lining paper and wrap up in some clean greaseproof paper, and then foil.
People have mixed opinions when it comes to feeding the cake. While a lot of recipes I have come across do recommend feeding the cake, many cake bakers I have spoken to have said that they do not feed their fruit cakes if they have steeped their fruit, as the cake can become soggy. I have fed my make with amaretto a couple of times, but have not done so on a weekly basis.
To feed the cake, insert a skewer into the base of the cake several times, and drizzle over (or brush with a pastry brush) a tablespoonful of your chosen liqueur.
I will be back with the decoration of the cake in due course!