23cm (9in) diameter cake tin or 20 x 20cm (8 x 8in) square cake tin
> Place the dried fruit and the candied peel in a bowl. Pour on the brandy or rum and allow it to soak for at least 2 hours (if not just heat it up a bit). > Pre-heat the oven for 10 mins at 180 degrees. Grease and line he tin with butter paper at the bottom. > Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer until soft. > Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. > Stir in the orange zest and ground almonds, then sift in the flour and spices and fold in gently. Fold in the dried fruit and any brandy or whiskey left in the bowl. Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin. > Bake in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours at 160 degrees or till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean (a round tin will take longer) or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. > Cover the cake, still in the tin, with foil and allow to cool. > Once the cake has cooled, remove it from the tin and cover again. This keeps it moist. (Recipe courtesy: Chef Rakhee Vaswani, Palate Culinary Studio)
Baking tips from the chef
> Heavy and dense cakes take longer to bake and need a lower temperature for even baking. > Dates, apricots and a little cocoa powder are used as well as sultanas, raisins and currants to give the plum cake a rich and intense flavour. > As with all traditional Christmas cakes, if this is made a few weeks in advance, you get a lovely, moist texture. > This cake can also be made (much to a busy person's relief) a few days in advance, or even the day before. > A practical method to bring the intensity is to warm up the dry fruits and peels with the brandy so no soaking is required. > If you don't have time to soak dry fruits in advance, heat these with rum or brandy; allow it to cool down a bit and add it to your mix for a dense and intense flavour. > For a decorative look, brush your cake with warm apricot jam and cover it with a layer of white fondant to look like a beautiful Christmas snow cake. Decorate further with some apricots and walnuts.
For the novice baker:
Ingredients 250 gm flour 200 gm condensed milk 1 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 cup soft butter 350 gm mixed blanched almonds, sultanas, raisins, currants, candied citrus peels, all soaked in dark rum for at least a week 1 tsp mixed spice powder 1/2 tsp nutmeg 50 ml tbsp brandy 100 ml water
> Sift dry ingredients together. > Combine the flour, condensed milk, water, spices and brandy in a bowl and whisk well. > Fold in the dried fruits and make sure it is well incorporated. > Pour into 2 greased 8 inch baking trays and bake for 25 minutes in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius. > Remove, de-mould, cool. > Serve with hard sauce.
Baking tips from the chef
> Soak the fruits in a good quality rum to have an intense flavour after baking so that it all seeps in. > Drain the fruits well before baking so that the batter does not become too liquid-ey and thin. > Add the spices freely to have a fragrant pudding.