Today is Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent and traditionally the day for making Christmas puddings and cakes. We, however, are breaking slightly with tradition here at Chez Bangers. Instead of making our usual Amaretto Christmas cake, this year we’ve gone for something slightly different.
Rich fruit cake is quite a grown up taste, so I wondered if I could make it a little more appealing for children. And the most obvious way to do that, it occurred to me, would be the addition of chocolate. So this year, that’s what I’ve done. While I was just photographing the end result, my girls came in and sampled a few off cuts. Their verdict? They like! And so do I. It’s rich without being intense, the chocolate adds a lovely dark, sweetness without being overwhelming, and it’s beautifully moist too.
OK, so it does contain booze. So perhaps this cake is not completely for kids, but a smudge more kid-friendly than your standard Christmas cake. This time I’ve gone for Marsala wine, but it’s only a tiny amount and the kids didn’t seem to notice. I’m wrapping up our cake now and storing it until Christmas, taking it out once a week or so to feed with a drop more Marsala, which I’d say goes really well with the dark chocolate and juicy fruits.
Chocolate fruit cake with Marsala wine
100g prunes, chopped
100g dried figs, chopped
100g candied orange peel, chopped
125ml Marsala wine, plus extra to feed
125g soft butter
125g demerara sugar
4 eggs, beaten
130g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
50g ground almonds
100g dark chocolate chips
25g crystallised ginger, chopped
Preheat the oven to 140C / gas mark 1. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.
Put the dried fruit and candied orange peel in a large pan with the Marsala and bring to the boil gently. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to one side.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa onto the butter and sugar mixture. Add the mixed spice, ground almonds and salt. Fold these dry ingredients carefully into the wet ingredients. Give the soaked fruits a stir and add these, along with the chocolate chips and ginger. Mix it all together well.
Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface. Bake for an hour, before covering with foil and baking for another half an hour or so. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.
With a skewer, poke some holes deep into the cake, and generously brush the surface with more Marsala. Remove the cake from the tin and with the baking parchment still in place, wrap in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight tin.
Feed again with a little more Marsala once a week until Christmas. I must admit, I haven’t decided how to decorate my cake yet. Cover with marzipan and royal icing, or simply decorate with nuts and glace cherries – what do you think?