Our apricot and orange fruitcake can be transformed into these amazing Christmas Cakes. This recipe makes 4 impressive cakes, decorated to look like Christmas gifts. Great for a Christmas centre piece or presents.
- For the cake:
- 250g (8oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 250g (8oz) light muscovado sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- 200g (7oz) plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 level tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 level tsp ground ginger
- Large pinch ground nutmeg
- 8 tbsp Cointreau
- 1kg packet dried mixed fruits
- 250g packet dried, ready to- eat apricots, chopped
- 200g carton glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and halved
- 18cm (7in) square cake tin, lined with baking parchment
- For the icing:
- 8-12 tbsp apricot glaze
- 1.5-2kg (3-4lb) marzipan
- 1.5-2kg (3-4lb) pale-green sugarpaste
- 150g (5oz) red sugarpaste
- 150g (5oz) white sugarpaste
- 2 teaspoons CMC (Tylose)
- Red edible-ink pen
- 4 x 13cm (5in) cake cards or small square plates
- Icing smoother or side-scraper
- Pizza wheel, optional
- Small star cutter, eg PME plunger star cutter
- Plain writing piping tube
For the cake: Set the oven to 150°C or Gas Mark 2.
Beat together the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale in colour, then gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each egg. Beat in the rest of the flour, salt, orange zest and spices and then beat in 4 tbsp Cointreau. Fold in the dried fruits, apricots and cherries. Spoon the mixture into the lined cake tin and level the surface, smoothing the top with a wet hand and hollowing it very slightly.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 3-3½ hours, or until it feels firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too quickly, cover the top with a sheet of baking parchment or foil.
Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for about 10-15 mins, then spoon over the remaining 4 tbsp of Cointreau.
When the cake is cold, if it’s not going to be decorated immediately, wrap it well in baking parchment, then foil. Store in a cool, dry place, for up to three months. The cake can also be frozen for up to three months — just wrap it in the same way as you would do for storing.
For the icing: Use a long-bladed knife to cut the cake into quarters and place on cake cards or plates.
Spread the apricot glaze over the top and sides of the cakes.
Knead a quarter of the marzipan to soften it, then roll it out on a surface dusted with icing sugar so it’s large enough to cover the top and sides of one cake. Lift over the cake and press down against the top; ease in the fullness at the corners and press against the sides. Trim away excess marzipan around base and rub the surface of the marzipan smooth with a smoother or sidescraper. Repeat with 3 other cakes.
Brush water over the marzipan as “glue” to hold the sugarpaste in place.
Knead a quarter of the green sugarpaste to soften it, then roll it out on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Use to cover a cake as in step 3 for the marzipan, trimming excess away and rubbing the surface smooth. Repeat 3 times to cover all 4 cakes.
Knead about a teaspoon of CMC in to both the red and the white sugarpaste to make modelling paste. Keep each colour well wrapped in a plastic bag until ready to use.
Roll out the red sugarpaste and cut narrow strips, using a pizza wheel if you have one.
Brush a criss-cross of water on the green sugarpaste and lay the strips of red sugarpaste on top, trimming the ends. Repeat to decorate another cake, then put white ribbons criss-crossing on the other 2 cakes.
Roll out sugarpaste thinly and cut out stars, putting white stars on parcels with red ribbons and red stars on the parcels with white ribbons. Brush water on to the backs of the stars to stick them in place. Also cut some stars in half and stick the cut side against the ribbon, to look like
the ribbon goes over the stars.
Roll out some of the white sugarpaste and cut out 4 label shapes. Use the tip of the writing piping tube to cut a small hole out of each label.
To make the bows, cut more strips of sugarpaste the same width as the ribbons over the cakes. Brush water over the ends of 2 strips and fold over and press in place to make loops.
Brush a little water over the end of the loop on 2 strips and press another on top to give the bow shape. Brush some water in the centre.
Stick another strip around the centre to form the knot of the bow and cut off any excess sugarpaste at the back of the bow.
Cut the ends of the bow into “V” shapes. Repeat steps 11-14 to make 3 more bows.
Brush some water on the criss-cross of the ribbons, and stick the bows, then the labels in place. Roll a very thin piece of red sugarpaste, and stick into the hole in the label and under the bow to look like string. When the label is dry, write an inscription using the edible-ink pen.
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It’s easiest to use apricot glaze to stick the arzipan onto the cake. If you can’t buy the glaze, sieve some apricot jam to get a smooth purée, after removing any bits of fruit.