If, like my family, you can easily do without marzipan and the hard icing covering of the Christmas cake, and find the cake itself rather too similar to the Christmas pudding, here is an alternative which is much less trouble and can look equally festive. It is a dark, moist cake, packed with fruit and nuts. Make it several weeks in advance if possible.
The night before you make the cake put the fruit with the rum or brandy in a bowl, stir well together, put a cloth on top and leave overnight. The next day, heat the oven to Gas Mark 4/350°F/180°C. Grease and line a
Put the flour, salt, nutmeg and sugar into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small lumps and rub it well into the flour and sugar with your fingers. Stir in the fruit, alcohol, and the chopped walnuts. Thoroughly stir in the beaten eggs and then the treacle dissolved in milk.
Put the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven. After half an hour turn the oven down to Gas Mark 2/300°F/150°C for about another 1¼-1¾ if hours until a sharp knife stuck into the centre comes out clean. If the cake looks as if it is getting too brown place a sheet of foil or brown paper on the top. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for about 5 minutes, then loosen the edges carefully with a knife and turn out the right way up on a cooling tray. When cool, wrap in two layers of greaseproof paper and then in a double layer of foil and store in a cool place.
A day or two before Christmas wash the excess sugar from the angelica under water and pat dry with a cloth. Then cut out holly leaves if you can or just ordinary diamond leaf shapes. Cut a few glacé cherries in half. Then gently melt the redcurrant jelly in a pan and brush it all over the cake. Immediately arrange the angelica leaves and halved cherries in a pattern on top and sprinkle the sugar crystals all around. The crystals look like ice or frost and I also dot silver balls around the top and sides of the cake, which gives an added sparkle.
© 1978 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.