nigel slater's christmas cakerating:
butter - 250g
light muscovado sugar - 125g
dark muscovado sugar - 125g
dried fruits - prunes, apricots, figs, candied peel, glacé cherries, 650g in total
large free-range eggs - 3
ground almonds - 65g
shelled hazelnuts - 100g
raisins, sultanas, currants, cranberries - 350g in total
brandy - 3 tablespoons, plus extra to 'feed' the cake
zest and juice of an orange
zest of a lemon
baking powder - half a teaspoon
plain flour - 250g
You will need a deep 20cm cake tin with a removable base, fully lined with a double layer of lightly buttered greaseproof paper or baking parchment, which should come at least 5cm above the top of the tin. Set the oven to 160°C/Gas 3.
Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. I needn't tell you this is much easier with an electric mixer, though I have done it by hand. Don't forget to push the mixture down the sides of the bowl from time to time with a spatula. While the butter and sugars are beating to a cappuccino-coloured fluff, cut the dried fruits into small pieces, removing the hard stalks from the figs. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time - it will curdle but don't worry - then slowly mix in the ground almonds, hazelnuts, all the dried fruit, the brandy and the citrus zest and juice.
Now mix the baking powder and flour together and fold them lightly into the mix. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top gently, and put it in the oven. Leave it for an hour, then, without opening the oven door, turn the heat down to 150°C/Gas 2 and continue cooking for 1½ hours.
Check whether the cake is done by inserting a skewer - a knitting needle will do - into the centre. It should come out with just a few crumbs attached but no trace of raw cake mixture. Take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool before removing it from the tin. Feed the cake by pouring brandy into it every few days until Christmas. I do it at least once a week. Spike the cake with a knitting needle or skewer and drizzle in a little brandy. Cover tightly and leave in a cake tin till needed. It will keep for several weeks.