Traditional Christmas Cake by Charmaine Solomon from The Great Australian Cookbook
Makes: 1 cake | Prep Time: Approx. 3 hours | Cook Time: 2 – 2 hours | Skill Level: Moderate
250 g raisins, chopped
385 g sultanas, chopped
250 g mixed glacé fruit such as pineapple, apricot and quince,
(avoid using fig), chopped
260 g preserved ginger, chopped
500 g chow chow preserves, (see note)
120 g mixed peel, chopped
260 g glacé cherries, halved
260 g raw cashews or blanched almonds, finely chopped
125 ml brandy
375 g butter
500 g caster sugar
12 egg yolks (reserve 6 egg whites for this recipe)
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons natural vanilla extract
1 tablespoon natural almond extract
2 tablespoons rosewater, or to taste
1 tablespoon honey
250 g fine semolina
6 egg whites
1 quantity almond paste, for icing (optional)
250 g ground almonds
500 g icing sugar, sifted
1 small egg, beaten
1 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon sherry
½ teaspoon natural almond
1 egg white, beaten, for brushing
Line a 25 cm round or square cake tin with three layers of brown paper, then one layer of baking paper liberally brushed with melted butter. To insulate the tin even more, wrap the outside with a sheet of newspaper folded into three and secure it with kitchen string.
Combine the raisins, sultanas, mixed glacé fruit, preserved ginger, chow chow preserves, mixed peel, glacé cherries and cashews in a large bowl. Pour over the brandy, cover, and set aside. (This step can be done the day before, allowing the fruit more time to soak in the brandy, if desired.)
Preheat the oven to 130ºC. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest, spices, vanilla and almond extracts, rosewater and honey and mix well. Add the semolina and beat until well combined.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl or pan and use your hands to mix in the fruit until thoroughly combined – it’s much easier than a spoon and professional pastry cooks do it this way.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold through the fruit mixture until just combined. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 2¼–2½ hours, covering the cake with foil after the first hour to prevent over-browning. The cake will be very rich and moist when done. If you prefer a darker and drier result, bake for 4½–5 hours – it will not be dry, but certainly firmer than if you cook for a shorter time. Allow to cool completely, preferably overnight, then remove the paper and wrap the cake in foil.
A tablespoon or two of brandy may be sprinkled over the cake just before wrapping. If desired, ice the cake with the almond paste. This cake can be stored in an airtight container for one year or longer.
Mix together the ground almonds and icing sugar in a large bowl, add the combined egg, brandy, sherry and almond extract, if using, then knead until the mixture holds together. Roll out half the almond paste on a work surface dusted with icing sugar and cut to fit the top of the cake. Brush the traditional Christmas cake with egg white, then place the almond paste on top and press lightly with a rolling pin. Roll the remaining almond paste into a strip to fit around the side of the cake.