It is truly lovely and moist - but the best results are achieved through good preparation.
This is the 'basic recipe' - it's easy to experiment with and is rich, moist and dark, the bee's-knee for sharing with your in-laws at Christmas. Lots of of dried fruit, spices, eggs, flour, butter and the regular cast of ingredients. Oh, and more than a drizzle of alcohol...
Cooking Time: Three hours
100g glacé cherries
75g mixed candied peel
75g mixed chopped nuts
1 cup sherry
250g butter at room temperature
275g soft brown sugar
5 eggs at room temperature
grated rind of 1 orange
grated rind of 1 lemon
350g plain flour
5g ground cinnamon
15g black treacle
25 ml brandy (or rum, if you prefer)
25 ml Grand Marnier
4g mixed spice
Weigh out all the ingredients into suitable containers so they are to hand when needed. Soak the fruit in 1 cup sherry overnight. Before starting mixing, make sure you've lined the correct tin and turned on the oven to 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit).
Make sure the butter is left out of the fridge for a while before use, as this will help stop the mixture from curdling later when adding the eggs. The eggs should also be at room temperature before using them and not taken straight from the fridge. Make sure your mixing bowl, beater and machine are clean and ready for use.
Add the butter and sugars (and treacle) to the mixing bowl. Cream the butter and sugars (and treacle) together using the beater on a high speed until light. Stop the machine and give the beater and bowl a scrape down using a plastic scraper. Add the eggs slowly on a medium speed so as not to curdle the mixture.
Sieve the flour and spices together. Add the flour and spices gradually on a low speed. Stop the machine and scrape down the beater and bowl once more. Add the fruit gradually on a low speed. If you like, you can leave the dried fruit to soak for a few days beforehand, with a little sherry or brandy etc.
Turn off the machine. Give the mixture a final turn with your clean hands or a wooden spoon to make sure it's properly mixed through. Add the mixture to the tin, leveling and smoothing the top with the back of a spoon. Place into the middle of the oven at 150 Celsius (300 Fahrenheit) for about three hours.
Check the cake after the alloted time using a skewer...place the skewer into the middle of the cake: if it comes out clean, then the cake is done. If it needs a little more time, pop it back in for another ten or fifteen minutes.
Remove from the oven, leave the cake in the tin on the top of the oven or on the side on a cooling rack to cool down. When cold, tip the cake out of the tin and remove the first layer of paper, leaving the greaseproof on the cake...you may add your brandy or sherry or rum to the cake and then wrap up in more greaseproof paper and then a sheet of aluminium foil.
Tips when making a Christmas cake
Soak the dried fruit overnight in a little sherry or rum. Use one dessert spoon for each 500 grams of fruit
Take care when lining the tin. Fit the greaseproof into the corners carefully for a good shape
Before turning on the oven, place a baking tin at the bottom and add approx one litre of water. This will create a moist atmosphere and a better cake
When the cake is cold, sprinkle over a tablespoon of soaking mixture (see below) for each 500 grams of cake
Wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and foil, and store in a cool dry place. If you like, feed again a week later with the soaking mixture