“If I’m completely honest, I’ve never been a massive Christmas cake fan, but my mum insisted I put one in the book, so I spent months developing this, which I do like! It’s lighter than most – have fun decorating it, like I did with Buddy. ”
Serves 16 - 24
Cooks In3 hours 30 minutes plus cooling & decorating
Preheat the oven to 150º/300ºF/gas 2. Grease a 20cm square cake tin with butter and line the base and sides with greaseproof paper, lining the sides high.
Tear the stones out of the dates and prunes, then place all the dried fruit in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Decant the mixture into a large bowl, coarsely grate in the apple, finely grate in the clementine zest and squeeze in the juice. Pour in the stout, mix well and leave aside to soak for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, blitz the butter and sugar together in the processor until pale, smooth and fluffy. With the processor still running, one-by-one crack in the eggs, then pour in the milk in a steady stream, blitzing until smooth. Scrape this mixture into the bowl of fruit and fold together with a spatula. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cocoa and spices, then fold together again. Transfer to your prepared tin and bake for around 2 hours, or until cooked through and an inserted skewer comes out clean – if it needs a little longer, simply cover the top with greaseproof paper to prevent it from catching. Leave to cool for 30 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Now the fun bit, the decoration. You’ll see from the following pages that my lovely mum likes to keep things traditional – she brushes her cake with warm apricot jam, covers it with marzipan, then uses fondant icing to finish it off nice and smoothly. I, on the other hand, prefer to go a bit more to town. I do brush my cake with warm jam, too, preferably a sour variety, then embracing my inner Mary Berry, I make proper royal icing, and all my old toys come out (for decoration only, of course, so watch those little hands) . . . To make royal icing, whisk 3 large free-range egg whites in a large bowl until fluffy. Sieve 700g of icing sugar separately, then, a spoonful at a time, fold it into the egg whites. Once combined, stir in the juice of ½ a lemon and ½ a teaspoon of glycerine. Beat until it forms stiff peaks, then use it to decorate the cake.