2 - 2 1/2 Hours
"A beautiful centrepiece for the festive table, this Christmas cake is easy to prepare; no mixer required. The cake will happily keep for 3-4 weeks before you need to cover it with marzipan and frosting, but it can also be eaten soon after baking. Make sure you feed it with some brandy if you make it in advance, the flavour will actually improve with time."
Preheat the oven to 170C (150C Fan). Grease a deep 18cm cake tin (preferably springform) with a little butter and line the bottom and sides with baking paper.
Put the sugar, golden syrup, milk, orange juice and zest, treacle and mixed spice into a large pot. Heat until it reaches boiling point, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Take off the heat and add the cubed butter. Stir until the butter melts.
Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir it in, it will froth up slightly.
Break the eggs into a bowl and lightly whisk together. Add to the batter and whisk them in.
Add the flour and mix it in.
Add the dried fruit and almonds and mix everything together until the batter is smooth.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, covering with foil after an hour or so to prevent the cake from browning too much. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Take the cake out of the oven. Drizzle a little brandy over the cake and let it cool in the tin. Once completely cool, carefully take out of the tin and keep covered with foil, feeding the cake a little brandy every 4-5 days and then covering again.
Once ready to cover, warm the apricot jam in the microwave for a few seconds.
If there’s a slight dome on your cake then level it off and flip the cake over to redistribute the brandy. Brush the top of the cake with the warmed jam.
Warm the marzipan in your hands so that it’s pliable. Dust your worktop with a little icing sugar so the marzipan doesn’t stick and roll it out so that it’s slightly wider than the diameter of the cake.
Invert the cake on the marzipan, pressing down gently so that it sticks. Use a sharp knife to trim the excess marzipan around the base of the cake.
Carefully turn the cake the right way up and transfer onto a cake stand or plate.
Whisk the egg whites and lemon juice until frothy and then fold in the icing sugar. Whisk again until the frosting is thick and forms firm peaks.
If you wish to decorate with the cranberries, whisk the egg white and sugar until frothy then brush over the cranberries. Let them dry out for a few minutes and then sprinkle with granulated sugar to achieve the frosted finish. Leave until touch dry.
Use a palette knife to smooth the frosting over the marzipan, you will have some left over unless you cover the entire cake. The frosting will harden as it sets.
Place the frosted cranberries over the cake and add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Tie a pretty ribbon around your cake and you’re ready to serve!