This Christmas cake is really easy to make and is decorated with a retro-style snow scene which requires little cake decorating skill but still looks fabulous.
It is not a difficult cake to make but really benefits from soaking the dried fruit overnight so does need a bit of advance preparation.
Then a few years, I discovered a new way to make a great rich cake which did not require soaking the fruit first. Indeed it didn't even require creaming the butter and sugar or the slow addition of beaten eggs.
Simmer and Stir cake
Instead the dried fruit is heated and simmered in some sweet wine along with the butter and sugar. Then after allowing to cool slightly all the remaining ingredients are mixed in and job done! It's ready to go into the tin and be baked.
I can be a bit of a lazy baker at times so this suits me down to the ground especially when time is short.
When making cakes for special occasions I now soak/simmer my fruit in some sweet wine regardless of which method I use for making it. There is no taste of the alcohol as such in the finished cake but it does add a lovely richness to the cake and gives it a moist texture.
If you want a completely non-alcoholic version, replace the sweet wine with fruit juice or tea.
Or if thats not an issue for an even richer flavour, if you have made your cake in plenty of time you can "feed" the cake with a couple of tablespoons of brandy every week for about 3 weeks.
Simply prick the cake a few times with a skewer and drizzle the brandy over the surface before re-wrapping in parchment and foil and storing in a cool dry place.
Retro Christmas Cake
As this is a super easy way to make a cake, I wanted to make it easy to decorate as well. So I have opted for this retro-style snow scene as it is so easy to produce. The simple icing effect requires little cake decorating skills so can easily be produced by anyone.
After marzipaning the cake, it is covered in royal icing. Then using the flat side of a palette knife the icing is peaked to resemble snow. A few ready-made Christmas cake decorations, complete the scene.
This cake is not dissimilar to the cakes that were sold in my family's bakery in the 70s and 80s. They had a *Christmas paper frill around the edge. Personally I don't think it needs anything it but if you wanted you could go for the full retro look with a frill or just add a ribbon.
Step by Step Easy Retro Christmas Cake
Cook the cake in a lined tin, read how to line a round cake tin here.
To ensure even cooking consider adding a *cake belt during cooking. These help to keep the cake from drying out around the edges before the centre is cooked.
You can also make your own by placing some wet kitchen paper folded inside a band of foil which I have found to be very effective.
Easy Retro Christmas Cake
For the cake
- 175 g (6oz) butter
- 200 g (7oz) light muscovado sugar
- 2 tbsp treacle
- 150 g (5oz) glace cherries quartered
- 75 g (3oz) mixed peel
- 200 g (7oz) sultanas
- 200 g (7oz) raisins
- 200 g (7oz) currants
- 1 orange zest and juice
- 125 ml (4 floz) sweet wine
- 100 g (3½oz) ground almonds
- 75 g (3oz) almonds or pecans coarsely chopped
- 3 large eggs lightly beaten
- 175 g (6oz) plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground mixed spice
- 4 tbsp brandy plus extra to feed the cake (optional)
- 700 g (1½lb) marzipan
- apricot glaze
- 3 egg whites
- 700 g (1½lb) icing sugar sifted
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1½ tsp glycerine (opitonal)
- 20cm (8in) deep round cake tin
- Large saucepan
- Rolling Pin
- handheld or stand mixer
- palette knife
- 23cm (9in) cake board or drum
- Christmas cake decorations
To make the cake
- Place 175g (6oz) butter, 200g (7oz) light muscovado sugar, 2 tbsp treacle, 150g (5oz) glace cherries, 75g (3oz) mixed peel and 200g (7oz)each sultanas, raisins and currants in a large saucepan.
- Add the zest and juice of orange and 125ml (4floz) sweet wine. Heat slowly until the mixture comes to a gentle simmer, then turn the heat low and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 150℃ (130℃ fan)/300°F/gas mark 2. Line a 20cm (8in) deep round cake tin with baking parchment.
- Once the fruit mixture has cooled stir in 75g (3oz) coarsely chopped almonds or pecans and 100g (3½oz) ground almonds and stir to mix.
- Stir in 3 beaten eggs, then sift in 175g (6oz) plain flour 1 tsp baking powder and 2tsp mixed spice and fold in until evenly combined.
- Spoon into the prepared tin and spread level, then make a slight dip in the centre of the cake.
- Bake for 45 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 140℃ (120℃ fan)/275°F/gas mark 1 and cook for a further 1½ to 2½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cover the cake with a circle of foil if it starts to darken too much before the cake is cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Use a skewer and prick the cake all over a few times. Then sprinkle with 4 tbsp brandy.
- Allow the cake to cool in the tin. Once it is completely cold, remove from the tin and carefully peel away the lining paper. Wrap the cake in a double thickness of fresh parchment and then foil and store until required in an airtight container.
- Cover the cake with marzipan. Roll out half the marzipan a little larger than the cake. Brush the top of the cake with a little apricot glaze and turn upside down and place on the marzipan. Gently push the edges of the marzipan with a palette knife to attach to the sides of the cake to give and even edge. Trim if needed.
- Roll out the remaining marzipan into a long thin strip and attach to the side of the cake with apricot glaze. Trim as required.
To make the royal icing
- Whisk 3 egg whites until frothy then gradually beat in 350g (12oz) icing sugar. Beat in 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1½ tsp glycerine if using. Gradually whisk in the remaining 350g (12oz) icing sugar until the icing stands in soft peaks.
- Use a little icing to "stick" the cake to a cake board. Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake. Smooth the sides and tops so that the cake is evenly covered. Now use the flat side of a palette knife to lift the icing into "snowy" peaks over most of the top of the cake, leaving a little area flat at the front.
- Arrange the Christmas cake decorations to complete the scene. Spread a little icing over the cake board. Set aside ina cool dry place until the icing has set. Store in an airtight container in a cool place until required.