Simple, smart, but still reassuringly traditional. I have made this 2 Christmases in a row now and had so many compliments! I used Delia’s Christmas traditional cake recipe. I used dried cranberries for decorating rather than fresh or frozen ones. I’m not very artistic & usually avoid decorating cakes but this can’t fail to impress!
To cover cake
- 500g pack natural marzipan
- 3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
- 400g icing sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 1 egg white
- 50g golden caster sugar
- several eucalyptus sprigs (smaller-leaf varieties look best)
- plenty of fresh bay leaves, in sprigs if possible
- 100g cranberries, defrosted if frozen
- MAKE A RING-SHAPED CAKE: Prepare Hot toddy fruitcake mix (recipe opposite), then grease and double-line a 23cm round, deep cake tin. Peel off the label from an empty 400g can and wash well. Butter the outside of the can and wrap in non-stick baking paper. Fill the can one-third full with baking beans, rice or dried pulses (to weigh it down), then position in the middle of the tin. Spoon the cake mix around the ‘ring’, then smooth the top. Bake at 160C/fan 140C/gas 3 for 1½ hrs, then turn down to 140C/fan 120C/gas 1 and bake for another hour or until a skewer comes out clean.
- While the cake is still warm, use the skewer to pepper the cake with holes, poking it all the way down. Dissolve the sugar in the tea, add the whisky or orange juice, then spoon over the surface. If you’re making the cake ahead of time, feed it with a fresh swig of hot toddy every week, but take care not to make the cake soggy. Can be kept for a month well-wrapped in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. If short on time, the cake can be made the same day that you decorate it.
- To decorate, lightly beat the egg white, then put the caster sugar on a flat plate or tray. Dip the tips of the leaves into the egg white, shake off any excess, then dip into the sugar to coat. Leave to dry while you cover the cake with marzipan. If your cranberries are frozen, leave them on a few sheets of kitchen towel at this stage to thaw and dry out, or the juice will run into the icing.
- Roll the marzipan to a 23cm circle, shaping it into a round with your hands. Alternatively, roll the marzipan a little larger than you need, then cut a round using the cake tin’s base as a guide. Turn the marzipan over. Brush the top of the cake with jam, then put it, jam side down, on the marzipan.
- Make the hole in the middle. Using the can, push through the hole in the centre of the cake and punch out excess marzipan – this is the easiest way to make sure the hole in the covering matches hole in the cake. Turn cake right way up and sit on a cake plate.
- Sieve the icing sugar, then beat with the egg white until thick and smooth. Spread over the marzipan with a palette knife, then decorate the top with cranberries, bay leaves and the frosted eucalyptus sprigs. Leave to set overnight before cutting. Can be decorated up to a day ahead. Keep cake wrapped in foil up to the icing.