Christmas Baking #1: Merry Sherry Cherry Christmas Cake

Hello, I’m Clementine the baker cat. I know it’s been a while since the last post. I’ll tell you what has been keeping me so busy – a Christmas cake!

I baked my tried-and-test Merry Sherry Cherry Christmas Cake for this Christmas. It’s literally packed with dried fruits soaked in butter, sugar and sweet sherry. It smells sweet and spicy – oh so Christmasy!

Problem is that the delicious festive smell attracts so many attentions. I’ve been so busy keeping the cake safe from the army of mice led by the greedy Mouse King. Luckily, my friend Nutcracker and his toy soldier army have been helping me guard the cake while I’m feeding and storing for Christmas. Actually, the real enemy is myself. It’s so hard not to taste it until Christmas!!

Here is the recipe that gives Mary Berry a run for her money. You still have time to make your own. You can experiment with the combination of dried fruits and nuts. Also, you can use other alcohol such as brandy, whisky or rum if sherry is not your cut of, well, booze. Make most of what you have in your cupboards!

Happy Christmas baking!

*****

MERRY SHERRY CHERRY CHRISTMAS CAKE
Serves 12-15

INGREDIENTS
750g mixed dried fruits (a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, mixed peels or cranberries)
150g dried cherries, chopped
100g dried apricots, chopped
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150ml sherry, plus extra for feeding (I used one with rich and creamy flavour)
250g unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
180g light soft brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
100g ground almond
½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp salt
100g nuts of your choice (I used flaked almond, hazelnuts and walnuts), chopped

(FOR THE MARZIPAN)
175g golden caster sugar
280g icing sugar, plus extra for kneading and rolling out
450g ground almond
1 tsp vanilla extact
2 eggs, beaten
½ tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved

(FOR THE ROYAL ICING)
3 egg whites
675g icing sugar
3 tsp lemon juice
1½ tsp glycerine

INSTRUCTIONS

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  • BAKE THE CAKE (up to 3 months in advance): Put the dried fruit, zests and juice, sherry, butter and sugar in a large pan set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Tip the mixture into a large mixing bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  • Heat the oven to 150C/Gas 2.* Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking paper, then wrap a double layer of newspaper and a layer of tin foil around the outside. Tie with string.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the fruit mixture and mix well.
  • Combine the flour, ground almond, baking powder, spices and salt in a separate bowl and whisk well to break up any lumps. Then, add to the fruit mixture and stir well (but don’t overmix). Stir in the chopped nuts.
  • Tip into the prepared tin and level the top. Bake in the oven for 2 hours, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown, and a skewer inserted in the centre come out clean. Check after 1½ hour, and if the cake is browning too quickly, cover with foil.
  • Remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp sherry. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
  • To store, peel off the baking paper and re-wrap the cake in a double layer of fresh baking paper and agin in foil and store in a cool place for up to 3 months. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp of sherry every fortnight, until the week before you ice the cake. Don’t feed the cake for the final week to make sure the surface is dry before icing.
  • MAKE THE MARZIPAN (up to 2 days before covering the cake): Mix the sugars and almonds in a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract, egg and lemon juice and mix until it comes together. Dust the work surface with the icing sugar and knead the marzipan briefly with your hands to a smooth dough. Don’t overdo or it gets too greasy. Add a bit more icing sugar if it seems too wet. Shape into a ball, then wrap and keep in a cool place until ready to cover the cake.
  • COVER THE CAKE (the week before serving): Place the cake on a cake board. Brush the sides and the top of the cake with the apricot jam. Dust the work surface with icing sugar. Roll out the marzipan to about 5 cm/2 in larger than the top of the top of the cake. Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake using a rolling pin. Smooth the paste over the cake using the palms of your hands, then trim any excess with a sharp knife. Leave to dry for at least 24 hrs, or up to 3 days, before covering with icing.
  • FINISH WITH THE ICING (at least 1 day before serving): For the royal icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they become frothy. Mix in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time. You can do this with a hand-held electric whisk, but keep the speed low. Stir in the lemon juice and glycerine and beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.
  • To ice the cake, simply spread the icing evenly over the top and sides of the cake with a palette knife. For a snow-peak effect, use a smaller palette knife to rough up the icing. Leave the cake loosely covered overnight for the icing to harden a little, then wrap or store in an airtight container in a cool place until needed.
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    *Every oven is unique. Know your oven and adjust the temperature and baking time.