A very forgiving Christmas cake

There are times when your children remind you of your short comings. Every morning my eldest son and I clean our teeth together. He gets the best deal as I do most of it for him and his toothbrush both flashes and has a glitter ball in the handle that houses a small dog. Why oh why don't they make these for adult size teeth?

Anyway, there we were enjoying our tooth brushing when Charlie took the glittery brush out of his mouth and clinked it with my brush, exclaiming 'cheers' through his toothpastey grin. Perhaps Mr B and I should slow down on ploughing through the monthly Tesco wine delivery. 

Moving on to the recipe... it's not too late to make a Christmas cake! Bollocks to all that 3 months in advance nonsense. This little beauty is most forgiving so you can knock it up pretty much anytime between now and about the 20th. You need to allow a few days for icing you see. (I am planning a snowy fishing scene featuring penguins stolen from Good Housekeeping.)


- 150ml Lady Grey tea (Any old tea will do, I just like the orangey smell of Lady Grey.)
- 3 tbsp sherry
- 3 tbsp brandy
- 225g glacé cherries
- 115g dried prunes, each chopped into 3 pieces
- 840g raisins
- 230g self raising flour
- 90g ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 80g dark muscovado sugar
- 145g castor sugar
- 225g butter (I would say leave out of the fridge to soften but it might be better to leave it in the fridge if your house is as icy as ours.)
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten

Right then, the day before baking the cake (or the week before for that matter) put the cherries, prunes and raisins into a large bowl and add the hot black tea, sherry and brandy. Give it a good stir and then cover with clingfilm and leave in a cool place. (Not the fridge though.) The fruit will soak up the liquid. You can give it a stir every now and again if you can't leave it alone like me. 

On the day of baking the cake, butter a 20cm round cake tin and then line both the bottom and the sides with baking paper making sure the paper peaks over the top by about 5cm. You can also wrap the tin in a double layer of paper (using string) to make it completely burn proof, but to be honest I've never been bothered. Preheat the oven to Gas 2/150C/300F and get to work on the soaked fruit. 

Take half of the boozy tea soaked fruit and purée it in a food processor/liquidiser then mix back into the remaining half of the fruit. Mix the flour, almonds, nutmeg and mixed spice and add to the fruity mixture. Give it a good stir with a wooden spoon. It should feel stiff.

Cream the butter and two types of sugar together either by hand (eek... no thanks) or using a mixer. Then add a tiny bit of the egg at a time and mix after each addition. If the mixture does curdle, which happens to everyone let's be honest, then add a spoon of SR flour and it'll right itself. Once all the egg has been mixed in pop the whole lot on top of the fruity mixture and stir it together until it looks combined. Spoon into the cake tin and smooth the top to make sure it's level then put into the middle of the oven. 

Bake at Gas 2/150C/300F for 90 mins, then turn the heat down to Gas 1/140C/275F and bake for a further 3 hours. You need to check the cake about an hour before the end of baking by plunging a skewer (or thin knife if you don't happen to have one) into the middle and checking for uncooked cake mixture. If it is clean, it's cooked, so take it out and cool on a wire rack. My cooker took the full 4.5 hours to cook it but they're all different aren't they?

Once it's cool wrap in greaseproof paper and then foil and store in a cool place until you're ready to ice it. You can 'feed' the cake booze from now until Xmas by poking holes it in and spooning in teaspoons of brandy/rum/tipple of choice. I'm not going to as Charlie is a big fan of fruity cake. Plus he might try and clink it with someone else's slice and say 'cheers.'

P.S. If you're planning on covering with marzipan and white icing then don't forget the marzipan needs at least 24 hours to dry out once on the cake before adding the white icing. Otherwise the yellowyness shows through the icing. 
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