Emi and I were really busy last week, during the half term holidays, baking loads of cakes. I like to make a few extra for friends and family whilst I've got the wind in my sails. My recipe is an old family one that I've tweaked a little bit to suit my own personal style. My Grandma used to make these cakes using sherry, but I prefer Marsala wine. I've also chosen my favourite dried fruit from my local Turkish grocer, which is a rather different combination from the one she used. In fact I'm sure my dear old Gran, living in rural County Tyrone twenty years' ago, would never have heard tell of things like dried barberries. I've also chosen not to decorate the cakes with marzipan and icing. I love almonds, but I really dislike almond flavourings, so marzipan is not a favourite of mine. Instead I'm using glacé fruits with a glaze. I love the colours and the glossiness of this topping, and it's a super quick, easy way to decorate a cake. I also like to make small cakes (6"/ 15 cm diameter) rather than big cakes so that people don't get bored with them, although they will last for months in their tins.
If you'd like to give this little number a go, it's a very quick, simple cake to make. Here's the recipe:
Ingredients for 2 small 6"/ 15cm diameter cakes or 1 large 12"/ 30 cm diameter cake
1 kg/ 2 lb 4 oz of mixed dried fruits. I used 250 g/ 9 oz golden jumbo raisins, 250 g/ 9 oz brown jumbo raisins, 250 g/ 9 oz dried cranberries, 125 g/ 4 1/2 oz dried barberries and 125 g/ 4 1/2 oz dried papaya, but you can chose whichever mix of dried fruit you prefer.
175g / 6 oz plain cake-making flour
200g/ 7 oz soft brown sugar
zest and juice of 1 large orange
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
250g/ 9 oz butter at room temperature
100g/ 3 1/2 oz ground almonds
100g/ 3 1/2 oz flaked almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 heaped teaspoonfuls of mixed spice
1 heaped teaspoonful of powdered cinnamon
1/2 teaspoonful of powdered cloves
4 large eggs - beaten
1 teaspoonful of vanilla extract
150 ml/ 5 fluid ounces of Marsala Wine
1. Choose a large saucepan. Place the dried fruit, orange and lemon juice and zest, Marala wine, butter and sugar in the saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the mixture comes to the boil. Then reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Mix thoroughly and remove from the heat. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes.
2. Whilst the mixture from 1. above is cooling heat your oven to 150º C/ 130º C with a fan/ Gas Mark 2 and line your cake tins with grease-proof baking parchment. You'll need a circle for the bottom and a long rectangle to line the sides. I usually fix it in place with a spot of melted butter. I also like to use spring release cake tins, which make it easier to get the cakes out at the end of the process.
3. When you've got them lined on the inside, wrap them with newspaper on the outside and tie it in place with some string so that they cook, and cool down afterwards, really slowly. This ought to help prevent your cakes from cracking.
4. After your mixture from 1. has cooled down a bit add all the remaining ingredients, sieving the flour and mixing it thoroughly to make sure that everything is evenly distributed and there are no pockets of flour.
5. Tip the mixture into the prepared baking tins and place them in the centre of the oven. Cook for about 2 hours - until a skewer inserted into the top of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
6. Make a few discreet holes with a skewer - going in from the top. These will form little channels so that the wine that you feed the cake between now and Christmas gets evenly distributed.
7. When the cakes have completely cooled, wrap them in some grease-proof baking parchment and store them in cake tins. Feed each cake every 10 days or so with 2 teaspoonfuls of Marsala wine. Don't feed it for a week immediately before you decorate it.
And would you also like my recipe for the decoration on top? Ok, no problem.
Ingredients for cake topping
1 heaped tablespoonful of apricot jam or honey
2 tablespoonfuls of brandy
Whatever combination of glacé fruits and nuts that you'd like to use. I chose some glacé cherries and apricots with some roasted pecan nuts.
1. Place the jam and brandy in a small saucepan. Place over a medium heat until the jam melts, stirring until the two are evenly mixed.
2. Leave the jam and brandy mixture to cool. I keep mine stored in a small jam pot in the fridge so that I can use it for the other cakes that are in the pipeline.
3. Arrange your fruit and nuts over the top of your cake, and very gently brush them with the jam and brandy mixture using a pastry brush.
4. Wrap up your cake for presentation. I used a rectangular food doily, cut lengthways as an internal wrapper with some brown paper on the outside tied up with a festive ribbon.
Enjoy with friends and a nice cup of Rosy Lee.
All the best,
As shared on Creative Mondays