Alison's husband Peter, is particularly partial to dark fruit cakes. This lovely, moist cake is very fruity and certainly fits the bill. It contains no essences. We like to add a mixture of spices, but we don't use very much of any of these, and you can leave out any of them you do not have on hand.
FOR ONE 23CM SQUARE OR ROUND CAKE:
1/2 cup sherry
rind of 1 lemon
rind of 1 orange
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
250g butter, softened
1 Tbsp treacle
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp each ground allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and nutmeg
One to two days before the cake is made, put the dried fruits into a plastic bag with the sherry. Turn the bag every now and then. Leave the bag in a warm place until all the sherry has been absorbed by the fruit.
Remove the coloured zest of the lemon and orange with a potato peeler. Add the thinly peeled zest to a food processor and process with the sugar until it is very finely chopped. (If using a cake mixer, finely grate the zest instead). Add butter, process until soft and fluffy then add the treacle and mix again. Add eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of the measured flour between each. Mix the rest of the flour and the spices with the fruit in a very large bowl.
Tip the creamed mixture into the floured fruit, and mix until soft enough to drop from your hand. If the mixture is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup of extra sherry or spirits.
Put the mixture into a 23cm round or square tin lined with greaseproof paper. If you don't intend to ice the cake, decorate top with almonds or cherries.
Bake at 150 degrees Celsius for one hour, then at 140C for about 3 hours, until a skewer in the centre comes out clean. If you like, drizzle 1/4 cup rum or brandy over it while it is very hot.
Leave an hour before removing from the tin, then cool completely on a rack before icing (or wiping over the top with lightly oiled paper towels to shine the cherries ands nuts).
Wrap loosely in baking paper and store in a cake tin, or, wrap loosely in a large plastic bag (a shopping bag works well) and store in the fridge until required.
KIRSTEN'S CHRISTMAS BISCOTTI
This loaf looks festive, is relatively quick to make, and the recipe produces a large number of pieces. It makes a great nibble with a cup of tea or coffee, or a few slices in a small cellophane bag, tied with pretty curling ribbon, make a good small gift.
For a 9 x 23cm loaf (which will give about 40 biscotti):
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp almond essence (optional)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups raw almonds or
1 cup raw almonds plus 1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 1/2 cups red glace cherries
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Beat the eggs, salt, sugar and essences until light and fluffy, then add the finely grated orange zest.
Mix the flour, almonds (or almonds and pistachios) and cherries together, then fold them into the egg mixture.
Turn mixture into a loaf tin about 9x23x8cm, lined with a Teflon liner or non-stick sprayed baking paper, making sure the top is evenly flat.
Bake at 180C for 45-50 minutes, or until loaf is lightly browned and the centre springs back when pressed. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. When cool, remove the loaf from the tin, wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 150C (125C if using fan bake). Cut the cooled loaf into about 40 thin (5-7mm) slices with a sharp, serrated knife.
Arrange the slices on a Teflon or baking paper-lined oven tray, then bake for about 30 minutes, until the slices colour slightly. Cool on racks then store in airtight containers until required.
Note: If you want a multi-coloured loaf, use cherries of mixed colours, some red and some green. If you use unblanched almonds, they will be more noticeable in the loaf.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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