This is a foolproof recipe from Grandma Abson's Traditional Baking collection which I make every Christmas. There is rarely a piece of it left by 1 January! Grandma would make Christmas Cakes well in advance in late October or early November. This allows time to prick the cake all over the top once it's cool and pour a tablespoonful of brandy on it. You can do this two or three times before putting on the Almond paste and icing to keep it moist.
Heat the oven to 325F, Mark 3, 170C. Line an 8inch/21cms cake tin – either round or square with greaseproof or baking paper or use a cake liner. Cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. You can do this in a food mixer. Add the warmed treacle and golden syrup to the mixture. Add the beaten eggs gradually and half of the flour and spices (cinnamon and mixed spice). Mix well. Stir in the nuts/almonds and cherries and then the rest of the flour , dried fruit and mixed peel. Add the stout at the end. Put the mixture into the cake tin and smooth over the top , making a slight indent in the middle - this stops the cake from rising too much in the middle and cracking. Bake for 3 – 3½ hours. Start with the oven fairly warm for 30 minutes at 325F, Mark 3, 170C and then gradually reduce over the time to finish in a slow oven at 250F, Mark ½, 130C.
Grandma's Tips : Wrap several layers of brown paper or newspaper around the cake tin and tie it with string before putting the cake into the oven to prevent burning.
Grandma made strict use of a thin cake skewer or cake tester to stick in the cake and check if it was thoroughly cooked. If it was cooked, there should be no trace of the mixture when the skewer is taken out, but if traces of the mixture remain on the skewer, then it needs further cooking time.
Ready for the oven A Perfect bake!
PUTTING THE ICING ON THE CAKE
Grandma would put the finishing touches to her cake a couple of weeks or so before Christmas.
You need to first cover the Fruit Cake with a layer of Almond Paste (or marzipan). Grandma always made her own Almond Paste (or marzipan). It's really easy. Grandma also sometimes used to add a little sherry or brandy to the mixture for an even stronger kick.
Mix the almonds and sugar together. Add sufficient lemon juice and/or water to make a stiff paste. First of all spread a thin layer of Apricot jam over the cake before placing the layer of rolled out Almond paste (usually about 3/8 inch /1 cm thick) on the top and sides.
You can always put dried fruit, nuts and glace cherries which have been folded in a redcurrant jelly and apricot jam glaze to make a jewel of a topping.
Sieve the icing sugar and add a little lemon juice and enough whites of the eggs to make it like the consistency of whipped cream. Beat for 15 minutes or until it will adhere to the spoon when held up. Do not beat too long. It may be necessary to add a little more sugar.
Grandma's Tip : Add a teaspoonful of glycerine to the mixture and this will stop the icing drying out.
Meryl's Tips : Use Ready to Roll icing to spread over the cake. A Cake smoother is really useful to get a perfect finish. Or, if you do make the icing yourself, use a fork to make peaks in the icing to simulate a snow scene.