chopped dried apricots
red glacé cherries
candied citrus peel
2 1/2 cups
freshly grated nutmeg
butter, at room temperature
additional brandy, for soaking
- COMBINE raisins, sultanas, cherries, currants, apricots, glacé cherries and peel in a large glass or stainless-steel bowl. Add 1/2 cup brandy and stir. Cover and let stand at room temperature at least 24 hours and up to 48.
- PREHEAT oven to 325F. Grease 2 8 x 4-in. pans with butter and line with parchment paper. Whisk flour with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt.
- BEAT butter, using an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in sugar until well combined. Beat in egg yolks, 1/4 cup brandy, zest, espresso and almond extract until combined. Stir in fruit (and any remaining liquid from soaking). Stir in flour mixture until just combined.
- WASH mixer well then beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of eggs into cake batter by hand until well combined. Add remaining egg whites and fold very gently until just combined. Spoon into prepared pans and smooth tops. Bake until evenly browned and a cake tester inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean, 60 to 75 min.
- COOL on a rack 10 min then remove cakes form pans and cool completely. Wrap in 2 layers of foil. Store in a cool cupboard. Once a week, open foil and brush cakes with 1 tbsp brandy each. Cake is best when made at least 2 weeks (and up to 12 weeks) in advance.
- TO SERVE, roll a 7-oz tube of marzipan to just slightly larger than the top of 1 cake. Brush cake with a bit of runny honey or melted jam then press marzipan layer onto top of cake. Roll out white ready-to-use fondant to cover the entire cake, including marzipan. Trim fondant. Serve cake sliced.
- Kitchen secrets: Always use fresh nutmeg; use the finest dried fruit (we like cherries and apricots); add lots of booze to the batter and the cake as it ages; use both marzipan* and fondant for luxurious frosting.
*Marzipan: A soft candy made of ground almonds and sugar that is part of any international Christmas traditions. Buy it ready-made, or whip it up in the food processor.