Cookery teacher Rosie Davies of Cooking with Rosie gave Kirstie Allsopp a lesson in cake making on Kirstie's Handmade Britain
Kirstie Allsopp: "I adore spending an afternoon baking a cake, although that said, my repertoire has been very limited. However, when you meet a good teacher it can inspire you and give you the confidence to take craft and run with it in your own unique way. This is what happened when I met Rosie Davies who runs 'Cooking with Rosie'. She came along and taught me this fantastic fruit cake recipe and I feel like I've been let loose into a whole new world of baking. I entered it into the Devon County Show and with the confidence I had from Rosie, I added a bit more stem ginger, brandy and powdered ginger and lo and behold, it won me first prize!"
For the apricot glaze
For the marzipan
For the royal icing
Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas mark 2. Line a 20-cm cake tin with two layers of greaseproof paper, making sure the paper around the sides goes about 5cm above the rim of the tin so that none of the mixture escapes as it rises.
If your dried fruit is not prewashed, wash it all thoroughly, then chop up the larger pieces so they’re about the size of the sultanas and currants. Put all the fruit in a pan with the cider, bring to the boil and simmer for 2–3 minutes. Set aside and allow to get cold. The fruit should absorb all the liquid, but if there’s any left, drain it off.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar with the finely grated zests of the orange and lemon. Add the treacle, if using – it’s great for flavour and colour, but if it’s not to your taste, it can be left out. Pour in the beaten eggs and mix well. Sieve the flour with the mixed spice and ground nutmeg and fold into the egg mixture. Now stir in the soaked dried fruit, the chopped nuts and some of the citrus juices to produce a mixture that has a soft dropping consistency.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top, then make a shallow dent in the middle so that the cake will rise evenly as it cooks. If you are not going to ice the cake, arrange the whole almonds over the surface and add a sprinkling of brown sugar to give a lovely crunchy topping.
Wrap a thick layer of brown paper or newspaper around the outside of the tin – as high as the lining paper – and secure with string. Place the tin on a baking tray lined with more brown paper and bake for 3 - 4 hours. Check the cake halfway through the baking time – if the top is getting too brown, cover it with a piece of brown paper.
Check the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer in the middle – it should come out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, prick it all over with a fine skewer and carefully pour the apple brandy into the holes. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the tin (usually around 2 hours).
If you are going to ice and marzipan the top of the cake, there are three components to this process- apricot glaze, marzipan and royal icing. All can be bought, and you can use fondant icing like Kirsty, but if you want to make them yourself boil up the apricot jam with the lemon juice and sieve to remove the bits. Simmer until thick to make the glaze.
For the marzipan, sieve the dry ingredients together. Beat in the egg, booze and flavouring to make a pastry-like consistency. Knead briefly until smooth (not too long or it will go oily,) then wrap tightly and allow to rest for at least an hour in a cool place.
For the royal icing, sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until foaming, using an electric mixer for speed. Slowly add the sifted icing sugar (be careful as the icing sugar will go everywhere like a cloud of talcum powder if you mix too fast!). Add the lemon juice and glycerine, then beat hard until smooth and shiny. Press some cling film down on to the surface of the icing to prevent it drying out on top, then rest for several hours to allow the air bubbles to come out.
To assemble the cake, tear off a large piece of cling film and smooth out on to a clean work surface. Sieve on a generous amount of icing sugar. Place the marzipan in the middle of the cling film and roll out to a circle that is big enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Use a pastry brush to remove excess icing sugar from the cling film.
Warm up the apricot glaze and brush the bottom of the cake (which will be perfectly flat). Place this glazed side down onto the marzipan. Press down lightly to get the cake to stick to the marzipan (the glaze with act like glue). Carefully brush the sides of the cake with more glaze being careful not to slop it over the marzipan. Pull the cling film up all around the cake so that the marzipan is pulled up too. Using the cling film to smooth the marzipan so that it sticks to the cake sides.
Turn over the now marzipaned cake still using the cling film and press firmly with your hands. Trim off any excess and place on a cake board, sticking it into place with a little more glaze if necessary. Use a straight sided jam jar to roll round the sides of the cake to get a really flat vertical surface. If necessary dust with a little more icing sugar. Allow to dry out for as long as you can; overnight at least.
When the surface has dried out stir up the icing to get rid of any air bubbles and spread on appropriately. To make this easier if you don’t have a turntable plate and use a large saucepan that the cake board can be centred on so that you can turn it (using the saucepan handle) to get a good coverage.
Tip: Put a little vegetable oil on a piece of kitchen paper and use it to grease the spoon you use to add the treacle. That way the treacle won’t stick to it. Tying brown paper around the outside of the cake stops the cake from cooking too fast. Fruit cakes are best stored wrapped in greaseproof paper in an airtight tin.
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