Packed full of luscious dried fruits and festive spices

This cake is a great alternative to the traditional English Christmas cake, marzipan and fruit cake.

It’s still packed full of luscious dried fruits and festive spices but benefits from the delicious addition of orange liqueur and rich dark chocolate.

Ingredients

200g (7oz) golden raisins

200g (7oz) seedless sultanas

100ml (3½fl oz) orange liqueur, plus extra for soaking

200g (7oz) unsalted butter, softened

100g (3½oz) dark brown sugar

50g (2oz) molasses sugar

3 large eggs

150g (5oz) plain flour

175g (6oz) good-quality dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa
solids), broken into pieces

1 tsp ground mixed spice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Juice of 1 lemon

100g (3½oz) chopped mixed peel

50g (2oz) whole glace cherries

75g (2¾oz) walnut halves

75g (2¾oz) whole hazlenuts, roasted

For the decoration:

2-3 tbsp apricot jam, sieved

Mixed glace fruits (orange slices, apricot, cherries etc) Mixed nuts (walnuts, pecans, pistachios)

Gold leaf (optional)

Method:

Put the raisins and sultanas into a bowl and cover with half of the orange liqueur. Cover the bowl and set aside for 24 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 150ºC (fan 130ºC)/300ºF/gas mark 2. Grease a 20cm (8in) springform cake tin.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars, using an electric hand whisk, until the mixture is light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, continuing to whisk. If the mixture looks like it is going to split, add a small amount of the measured flour.

Put the chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl that fits over a pan of gently simmering water (the base must not touch the water), and stir until it melts. Leave to cool slightly.

Add the cooled melted chocolate to the egg mixture. Sift in the flour, mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg and fold in so everything is well combined. Then add the lemon juice and remaining measured orange liqueur and mix together. Finally mix in the soaked raisins, sultanas, mixed peel, cherries, walnuts and hazelnuts.

Spoon the mix into the prepared tin. Level the surface and cover the top loosely with a piece of baking paper.  Bake in the preheated oven for 2–2½ hours, depending on your oven. Test to see whether the cake is cooked by inserting a thin metal skewer into the middle: if it comes out clean the cake is done.

Cool the cake in its tin on a wire rack, then remove from the tin, and peel off the lining paper. Feed the cake regularly with orange liqueur. I do this by carefully pouring straight from the bottle, but if you prefer, use a small ladle. Wrap the cake in clingfilm until ready to decorate. This cake is best eaten within three weeks.

To decorate, warm the apricot jam and, using a pastry brush, glaze the top all over. Arrange the fruit and nuts on top and glaze these too. If you like, highlight with gold leaf for an extra special touch.

12 Chefs of Christmas airs everyday this December at 11am on Food Network UK (Freeview 41, Sky 248, Freesat 149)

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