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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recipe: Traditional Christmas Cake

Makes 30 servings.
Total time: 4 hours 45 minutes, plus cooling time.

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces total) butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
4 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups each currants, golden raisins, dark raisins
1 1/3 cups soft dried figs, chopped
1 1/4 cups dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup chopped stoned dried prunes
1 3/4 cups chopped dried apricots
3/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped
2/3 cup plus 4 tablespoons brandy
2 teaspoons instant espresso, mixed with 1 tablespoon water

This rich cake can be made at the last minute before Christmas--it doesn't need to mature, although it keeps well, too.

Step 1:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. Grease a round 9- or 10-inch cake pan, and line bottom and sides with several layers of waxed paper.

Step 2:
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on high, beat the butter and sugar until thick and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, salt, and spices, then fold into the creamed mixture. Add the fruit, almonds, 2/3 cup brandy, and espresso, folding in well.
Step 3:

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, leveling the surface. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 275°F and bake for 3 1/2 hours longer or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Step 4:
Remove the pan from the oven, cover with first a kitchen towel and then a thick bath towel so that the cake will cool slowly.

Step 5:
When the cake is cool, prick the top with a skewer and drizzle with the extra brandy. Wrap in waxed paper and store in an airtight container. Keep in a cool place for up to 3 months.

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