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Christmas in the cake

LINING THE TIN: Two layers of newspaper topped with a layer of baking paper (yet to go in here) make a good insulation for the cake while it sits in a slow oven, ensuring the finished product isn’t too dry.
READY TO GO IN THE OVEN: The cake mix has been spooned (actually I used a glass jug which worked well) into the prepared tin, smoothed over with a spatula and decorated with blanched almonds.Christmas Cake

Christmas cake with no marzipan icing? No glace cherries? Mary-Jane Richmond found the perfect recipe 22 years ago and has been making it ever since.

Two thngs I never liked about traditional Christmas cakes — the marzipan icing and glace cherries.

Twenty-two years ago this recipe arrived, thanks to New Zealand food writer and Sunday Star Times food columnist at the time, Annabelle White. No soaking of fruit overnight, plenty of brandy (if that’s what you like) or substitutes if you don’t. No thick white icing. No sticky cherries. Best of all, one pot! Fantastic.

I’ve made the cake every year since 1999, when I cut out the recipe and stuck it in my recipe book. My family weren’t great fruit cake eaters so it was just the right size, and often it lasted right through to Easter.

Bella’s Super Simple

Christmas Cake


1 kg dried fruit (mix of raisins, currants and sultanas)

250g chopped apricots

250g butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup brandy or orange juice

1/2 cup cold tea or water

3 tsp fine grated orange rind

2tsp finely grated lemon rind

1 tbsp treacle

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups high grade flour

1 tsp baking power

1/2 tsp baking soda

whole blanched almonds

extra brandy


Line a deep 23cm round or 20cm square cake tin with three layers of paper, bringing paper 5cm above edge of cake tine. Combine all dried fruits in a large pot. Add butter, sugar, brandy/orange juice and cold tea/water. Stir over heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Stir in orange and lemon ride. Add treacle and eggs. Then sift and add dry ingredients.

Mix in with gentle, folding movements. Spread mixture evently into the prepared tin, and decorate with almonds.

Bake in a slow (150C) oven for 2½-3 hours. When cake comes out, splash a little extra brandy over the top. Cover hot cake with clean tea towels and leave it to cool in pan. ( Although this is how long the recipe recommends for cooking time, it’s worth keeping an eye on the cake after the first hour or so because I have never cooked it for that long.)

NOTE: My mother always decorated her Christmas cakes with almonds, rather than marzipan icing, but I remember she had a Christmas decorative wrapper which she would place around the cake. It looks as though you can get these online now, so that might be my plan for next year.

■ If you have a favourite dish you would like featured in the Weekender, email the recipe and photos to weekender@gisborneherald.co.nz