“Traditional rich fruitcake is such a joy at Christmas time,” writes Manning, who runs Sydney-based baking school BakeClub.
“Dense with brandy-soaked fruit and spices, a little goes a long way.
“Mine has the addition of cranberries and orange for a modern twist to an old favourite. The coarsely chopped nuts on top make a lovely fuss-free decoration.”
The recipe comes from Manning’s cookbook, BakeClass, which includes step-by-step baking lessons for home cooks as well as more than 90 sweet and savoury recipes.
Fig & Cranberry Christmas Cake
Makes: 20cm square or 22cm round cake (about 30 pieces)
Preparation time: 30 minutes (+ overnight soaking and overnight cooling)
Baking time: 3½–4 hours
300g dried figs
200g pitted prunes
200g seedless raisins
300g dried cranberries
200g sultanas (golden raisins)
110g (1/3 cup) fig jam
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
185ml (3/4 cup) brandy or orange liqueur, plus 60ml (1/2 cup) extra
185g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
110g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract or essence
4 eggs, at room temperature
200g blanched almonds (optional), plus 160g extra, coarsely chopped, to decorate (optional)
225g (1 1/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
50g (1/2 cup) almond or hazelnut meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons apricot jam or marmalade, warmed and sieved, to glaze
1 Chop the figs, prunes and raisins to the same size as the sultanas. Put in a large bowl with the cranberries, sultanas, currants, jam, orange zest and juice, and brandy. Cover and set aside at room temperature at least overnight.
2 Position the oven rack so the middle of the cake will sit in the centre of the oven, and preheat the oven to 150C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square or 22cm round cake tin with baking paper and wrap the tin to protect the cake.
3 Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition (the mixture will appear curdled). Use a wooden spoon to stir in the soaked fruit and almonds (if using).
4 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder and spices to combine evenly. Add to the fruit mixture and use the wooden spoon and then your hands to mix lightly until well combined.
5 Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press into the corners, then smooth the surface. Decorate with extra nuts. Put the tin on the magazine on the tray and cover the cake with a piece of foil. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue to bake for a further 1 hour and 45 minutes or until just cooked when tested with a skewer.
6 Pour the extra brandy evenly over the top of the hot cake. Trim any overhanging paper, cover the tin well with foil and then wrap the cake, still in the tin, in two tea towels. Cool overnight.
This cake will keep wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks. If you don’t use the nuts it will last for up to 3 months.
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