Christmas cakes

AT A GLANCE

  • Serves 4 people

  • 500 gm dried fruit, such as cherries, cranberries and crimson (or flame) raisins
  • 300 ml orange juice
  • 125 ml brandy
  • 125 gm softened butter, coarsely chopped
  • 125 gm dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 40 gm ground hazelnuts
  • 125 gm plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp each ground nutmeg and ground allspice
  • 500 gm fondant (see note)
  • For dusting: pure icing sugar, sieved
  • For decorating: silver cachous
01   Combine dried fruit, orange juice and brandy in a bowl, stir to combine, cover and set aside to macerate, stirring occasionally (8 hours-overnight).
02   Preheat oven to 150C. Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add eggs one at a time and beat to combine (if mixture curdles, add 1 tbsp of the flour). Add ground hazelnuts and dried fruit mixture (reserve 80ml soaking liquid) and stir to combine. Sieve over flour, baking powder and spices and stir to combine. Spoon into four 10cm-diameter cake tins buttered and lined with 2 layers of baking paper. Bake until cakes are golden and a skewer withdraws clean (1 hour-1 hour 10 minutes). Cool on a wire rack in tin for 30 minutes, then turn out and cool completely.
03   Knead fondant on a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar until malleable, then roll out to 5mm thick. Cut out 10cm rounds with a cutter. Re-roll scraps and cut out snowflake shapes. Brush cakes with a little of the reserved soaking liquid, top with fondant rounds and snowflakes, stud with cachous and serve.

Note This recipe was inspired by one in Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries. You'll need to begin it a day ahead. Alternatively, you could make the cakes a month ahead and, as Slater recommends, "feed" them with brandy once a week until Christmas. Simply pierce them with a skewer and spoon over a little brandy. The cakes can be iced three days ahead and stored in an airtight container until required. Fondant is available from the baking section of supermarkets.

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