This crowd-pleasing festive cake improves as it keeps. The perfect combination of dried fruits, nuts, cranberries and maple syrup make this a cake to impress.
225 g /8oz unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
225 g /8oz light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
225 g /8oz plain flour
2 tsp ground mixed spice
zest 1 small orange
85 g /3oz pecan nuts or walnuts, toasted, then roughly chopped
For the fruit
150 ml /¼pt cloudy apple juice
50 g /2oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp maple syrup
5 tbsp dark rum
800g/1lb 12 oz mixed dried fruit (the kind that includes mixed peel)
175 g /6oz dried cranberries
To feed the cake (each time)
2 tbsp dark rum
1 tbsp maple syrup
- Start with the fruit. Pour the apple juice into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the butter, let it melt, then take off the heat and add the syrup and rum. Put the mixed fruit and cranberries into a large bowl, pour over the hot rum mix, then cover tightly with cling film and leave overnight.
- The next day, heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Grease and double-line a 20cm round, deep cake tin with non-stick baking parchment. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and pale, then gradually beat in the eggs until light and fluffy. If the mix starts to split or look lumpy, add 1 tbsp of the flour and keep beating. Sift in the flour, spices and ¼ tsp salt, and fold in using a large spoon. Fold in the orange zest, nuts, soaked fruit and soaking liquid.
- Spoon the batter into the tin, level the top, then make a slight dimple in the middle using the back of the spoon. Bake for 1 hr 30 mins, then reduce oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 1 and bake for a further 1 hr 45 mins or until it has risen, is a dark golden colour and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Put the tin on a cooling rack and leave until warm.
- To feed the cake the first time, use a cocktail stick to poke all over the top of the warm cake. Stir together the rum and maple syrup, then slowly spoon over the cake. Cool completely, then remove the baking parchment, wrap loosely in clean baking parchment and store in an airtight tin. Feed the cake every week to 10 days until you decorate it.