Mini Cherry Brandy Fruit Cakes
Recently I posted my all-time favourite Christmas cake recipe. Now, with just one week until Christmas, you’re unlikely to make a proper big cake any time soon; in fact, you’re probably already sick of the festive season and prepared to hurl a mince pie at the next sherry-soaked, Christmas jumper-wearing party goer who happens to cross your path. Bah humbug. May I suggest, then, this adorable, perfect last-minute (well, almost) Christmas cake solution? It is entirely based on my Cherry Brandy Christmas Cake, but unlike a large cake, these little cuties are quick to make, bake and decorate – just cut out squares of marzipan and icing and add a few decorations, if you like. You’ll also find this recipe over on the Renshaw website – I was pleased to be asked if I’d like to submit a Christmas recipe – and of course I did.
Equipment: You will need a square 12-cavity tin such as this one from Lakeland. Alternatively, you can use a 9″x9″ brownie tin; it will need longer in the oven (Check after 35 minutes) and you’ll need to slice the cakes into 12 equally sized squares. You could even make them in a cupcake tin, for little round cakes. You’ll also need a rolling pin, a 6cm square cutter and a holly leaf cutter.
325g mixed dried fruit (including mixed peel)
50g chopped glace cherries
50ml cherry brandy (or your choice of alcohol) plus an extra 60ml for soaking
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g dark muscovado sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 small orange
1/2 tsp almond essence
2 large eggs
1 tbsp treacle
100g plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp salt
85g chopped nuts (optional)
100g smooth marmalade or apricot jam
250g sugar paste (roll-out icing) in your choice of colour (I have used baby pink!)
Approximately 100g each of red and green flower paste
Edible glitter or lustre for dusting (optional – I used Sugarflair’s Snowflake)
Preparing the fruit: The day before you plan to make the cakes, empty the dried fruits and cherries into a large container (preferably one with a lid) and pour over the cherry brandy. Give it a really good mix, put the lid on (or cover with clingfilm) and set aside. Try to give the container a shake a couple of times during the steeping process (this is why a lidded container is easier!)
Brush your tin with melted butter, then cut little strips of baking paper a little wider than each cavity so that you can lift out each cake later. Make sure each strip is pressed neatly into the tin.
Preheat the oven to 150c/300f/gas mark 2. Using a mixer, cream together butter and sugar together until a fluffy, pale coffee colour.
Switch off the motor for a moment and add the lemon and orange zests, almond essence and black treacle. Mix thoroughly, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing for about 10 second between each addition.
Meanwhile, stir together the flour, spices and salt. Add to the mixer using a heaped tablespoon, until it is completely incorporated.
When the mixture looks smooth and creamy, add the soaked fruit – and any remaining liquid – plus the chopped nuts (if using). Mix again until everything is evenly distributed, then spoon the mixture into your tin. I use a large ice-cream scoop for this – I find one level scoop of cake mix is the perfect amount per cavity.
Use the back of a teaspoon to level the tops, then place the tin into the centre of a preheated oven for 30 minutes. A cake tester should come out clean. You know they are done when they look darkly golden and the tops spring back when touched. These little cakes do not need to be baked for long, be careful not to overbake otherwise you’ll have a dry fruitcake. Carefully place the tin on to a wire cooling rack, and brush a 2-3 teaspoons on to the top of each cake while they are still hot. Leave to cool in the tin.
When the cakes are cool, you can start decorating. Lightly knead the marzipan then roll out on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Roll to roughly the thickness of a £1 coin. Use the square cutter to cut 12 squares. Warm the marmalade in a dish in the microwave for a few seconds, then brush the tops of the cakes with it.
Slice the corners off each square. This will make it easier to mould the marzipan to the tops of the cakes.
Repeat the same rolling, cutting and trimming process with the sugarpaste. Brush a tiny amount of cooled boiled water on to the marzipan to make the sugarpaste stick.
Roll out the green flower paste thinly and use a holly cutter (a plunge one is very quick and easy) to cut 12 holly leaves. Dab a little water or edible glue on to the back of each one, then position in the centre of each cake. Roll tiny balls of red flower paste, then place in a little dish with some edible lustre, and swirl them around so that they get a sparkly coating. Again, use a dab of water or edible glue to stick on to the cakes. Finish each cake with a dusting of lustre (if desired).