The perfect fruit cake, but with added festive warmth from three types of ginger. Follow our tip to make it gluten free
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
175ml whisky (or rum or brandy, if you prefer), plus extra to feed
100g crystallised ginger pieces, diced
100g stem ginger in syrup, diced, plus 4 tbsp syrup from the jar
1 x 200g tub glace cherries, chopped
100g blanched hazelnuts
250g very soft unsalted butter
250g plain flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
70g-100g light muscovado sugar (100g if you’re making it to mature and 70g if you’re eating it right away)
100g dark muscovado sugar
4 medium eggs
3 tbsp black treacle
Put the dried fruit, citrus zests and juice in a large bowl, stir, then cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through – this is to plump up the fruit. If you don’t have a microwave, put everything in a pan, stirring often over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the whisky, diced gingers, ginger syrup and cherries and mix together. Set aside to soak for a couple of hours, or overnight. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden, then cool, chop roughly and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 140°C, fan 120°C, gas 1. Oil or grease a 20cm diameter, 7cm deep cake tin with a removable base, and line the base and sides with baking paper, making sure it comes at least 3cm above the top of the tin to hold all the cake mix. Cut an extra sheet to cover the top of the cake.
Put the butter, flour, spices, sugars, eggs and treacle in a large mixing bowl with a good pinch of salt and beat together with an electric beater for 2-3 minutes until combined. Add the soaked dried fruit and any remaining liquid, plus the hazelnuts, then mix everything together with a metal spoon. Transfer to the cake tin and level the top. Crumple up the sheet of baking paper, then smooth it out and place loosely over the top of the cake tin (crumpling the paper helps it to mould slightly over the tin and stay in place).
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 4 hours, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out reasonably clean – it might have some fruit on it but shouldn’t have any uncooked mixture.
Leave the cooked cake in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out upside-down onto a wire rack and remove the baking paper and base of the tin.
Leave to cool completely, then wrap the cake in 2 layers of baking paper, then foil, and keep somewhere cool, dark and dry. Every week or once a month, unwrap the cake and feed it with a few spoonfuls of whisky or rum, with the last feeding about a week before you ice it, so that it isn’t too wet. If you’re making it to serve straight away, it will need a night to firm up before it’s covered with marzipan, and then another night after that before being iced. The cake will also freeze for up to 3 months – wrap in the same way as above, adding a layer of clingfilm over the top. Defrost at room temperature.