Gingered Christmas Fruitcake
1/3 cup dried figs, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
¼ cup dates, chopped
¼ cup dried cherries, chopped
1oz mixed candied peel
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup golden raisins
½ cup crystallized ginger, chopped
¼ cup fresh ginger, finely chopped
zest of 1 + juice ½ orange
zest of 1 lemon
1tbsp ginger syrup
4 tbsp Cointreau
1/3 + ¼ cups softened butter
2/3 cup + 2tbsp light brown soft sugar
1.5 tbsp molasses
1 + ½ cups plain flour
1/3 cup ground almonds
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
⅛ tsp ground cloves
5 cups of marzipan
2 large egg whites
4 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
1½ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp glycerin (optional, but stops the icing from set rock solid)
The day before you want to bake the cake, mix all of the dried fruits together in a large bowl and stir in the orange and lemon zests, orange juice, stem ginger syrup and alcohol, cover and leave to soak overnight. The following day, preheat the oven to 300F and grease the cake tin and line the base and sides with a double thickness of baking parchment, making sure that it comes a good 3 inches above the top of the tin.
Cream together the butter, sugar and molasses with an electric mixer until pale, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a spoonful of the flour if the mixture looks like it is about to split. Sift together the flour, ground almonds, spices and salt then fold into the creamed mixture followed by the soaked fruit; combine well.
Scrape the cake mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 2 hours to 2 hours 45 minutes until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean; cover with tin foil if it starts to get too dark. When the cake is ready, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of your choice of alcohol over the top then leave it to cool completely in the tin. When cold, remove it from the tin and peel off the parchment; wrap in tin foil and store for up to three weeks, feeding it with alcohol a couple of times a week. I stored it for one week before covering it in marzipan, feeding it twice.
When you are ready to ice the cake, trim the top to level it if necessary, turn it upside down and place it on a cake board or serving platter; use a little of the marzipan to fill in any holes in the cake and gaps between the cake and board. Gently warm the jam in a microwave or in a small pan on the stove until it is runny then brush a thin layer of it all over the cake, avoiding any bits.
Knead the marzipan a little to warm it up, then roll it out on a surface dusted with icing sugar to a large circle about 5mm thick. Drape the marzipan over the top of the cake, dust your hands with icing sugar and smooth the marzipan over the top and sides to cover the cake completely, working out any folds and wrinkles. Trim to make a neat edge. At this point you can leave the cake to dry out for a couple of days if you like, or proceed straight to making the icing.
Place the egg whites in a large, very clean bowl and whisk until they are just foamy. Stir in the icing sugar a spoonful at a time with a spatula then add the lemon juice and glycerin if using. Whisk with an electric mixer until it is very thick and white and stands up in stiff peaks.
Cover the top and sides of the cake with the royal icing, smoothing it with a palette knife. Try to level the top but don't worry about getting it completely smooth, it should be a slightly rough finish. You will probably have a bit of icing left over, it will keep, covered, in the fridge for a week.