Many people dislike traditional Christmas cake. It can be stodgy, contains sultanas (which I know at least one boy who hates) and involves marzipan and royal icing, each of which can be problematic in mixed company. However, Christmas in my father's house would not be Christmas without a cake, and if it is a winter-stodge-cup-of-tea-type cake (which it should be), that means dried fruit.
The following makes a nice tasty round for the main holiday season, and won't burden you until February. It's light enough to be a 'normal' cake, with enough fruit to satisfy the ardent traditionalists.
Lighter Christmas Cake with Apricot Frangipane
You Will Need: One 24cm cake tin, greaseproof paper and scissors; chopping board and knife; large bowl, wooden spoon; small bowl, cup, teaspoon; saucepan; medium bowl, measuring jug, sieve; food processor or blender, zester/grater, cooling rack, serving plate.
3oz dried apricots (and apricots to decorate)
2oz ground almonds
6oz light brown soft sugar
2oz dates (and dates to decorate)
100ml Stones Ginger Wine
4 large eggs
7 1/2 oz self raising flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 or 2 oranges
1) Preheat the oven to 180degrees C. Grease and line the tin with a circle of well-buttered baking parchment.
2) Chop the dates into little pieces. Soak the sultanas and date pieces in the Stones Ginger Wine. At this stage, if your apricots are very dry, soak them in water separately.
3) Chop the apricots finely, and mash them in the food processor. Add 2oz of ground almonds, 2oz of brown sugar, and 2oz of butter. Mush until combined. Scoop into a small bowl, and add the yolk of one egg (save the white in a cup for another project). Mix well and put by.
4) Melt the remaining 4oz sugar and 7oz of butter with the honey in the saucepan.
5) Beat the eggs in the large bowl; add the melted sugary mix in a slow stream, stirring constantly.
6) Strain the ginger wine back into the measuring jug, and put the fruit in the cakemix. Save the wine, mix the fruit. Gradually add the flour to the cakemix, along with the spices, and the zest of one of your oranges.
7) Now the fiddly bit. Slice your orange into 1cm rounds, and turn these 'inside out', peeling off the rind, separating the segments along their sides and joining the ends of the chain to make a 'cog'. Set these cogs inside each other on the bottom of the tin. Fill the gaps between the teeth with slivers of date and apricot.
ProTip: Navel oranges will not be as good for this. Remember that the finished cake will show the underside of the 'cogs' as you see them, so lay dates skin-side down and segments big-side down. Peel off any excess pith or teeny segments from the middle. Baby cogs can be made with a few segments; more than one orange is listed in the ingredients so that you can use the best slices from two.
8) Gently spoon over half of the cakemix, followed by the frangipane, then finish with the last of the cakemix.
9) Bake for approximately 1 hour, until a skewer comes clean. If it starts to brown too much halfway through, give him a tinfoil hat. Leave to cool in the tin for a good while before turning out.
10) Finish the cake by drizzling with the reserved ginger wine.