From 'Home Bake', published by Mitchell Beazley: "If you're more of a purist when it comes to your Christmas cake, then this recipe is for you. It's packed with dried fruit and roasted nuts, and, of course, French brandy."
YOU WILL NEED
350g golden sultanas
¼ bottle brandy
350g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
200g good-quality dark chocolate (about 70pc cocoa solids), broken into pieces
200g dark soft-brown sugar
100g molasses sugar
4 large eggs
300g plain flour, sifted
2 tsps ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Finely grated rind and juice of 3 lemons
150g chopped mixed peel
100g glacé cherries
50g walnut halves
50g whole hazelnuts, roasted
Soak the sultanas and raisins in about 150ml of the brandy in a covered bowl overnight.
Pre-heat the oven to 150°C/300°F/ Gas Mark 2. Grease a deep, 20cm/8in- diameter cake tin with extra butter and double line the base and sides with enough baking paper so that the paper stands a little above the sides of the tin.
Put the chocolate pieces in a heatproof bowl that fits over a pan of gently simmering water (the base must not touch the water), and stir until it melts. Leave to cool slightly.
In the bowl of your blender/processor, using the power beater attachment, cream the measured butter and the sugars together at high speed, until the mixture is light, pale and fluffy.
Add the melted chocolate and then the eggs, mixing them in at a slower speed.
Add a little flour if the mixture looks as if it may split. Scrape down the sides occasionally and mix until everything is incorporated and well blended.
Sift in the flour and spices, followed by another 150ml of the brandy, along with the lemon rind and juice. Mix together well, then stir in the fruit and nuts, without breaking the cherries or walnuts.
When combined well, spoon into the tin and level the surface. Cover the top with a disc of baking paper and bake for three-and-a-half to four hours, or until a thin-bladed knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool down in the tin, then turn it out on to a wire rack. Peel off the lining paper and pour on some more brandy (there will be a bit left in the bottle) while still warm.
When cold, add some more brandy to taste, then wrap in cling film and store in a cool dry place until ready to be decorated in time for Christmas. It can be stored in an airtight tin for up to six months, but feed it regularly with brandy.