Chocolate Fruit Cake

This gorgeously rich and dark Christmas cake could only be the result of Nigella’s mind. And so it is! This is that time of year when they are showing her Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen show on TV and all of the lights, the friends, the food and the festive atmosphere make you want to start pottering about in the kitchen. This cake, in particular, described as dark, moist and squidgy (it’s the prunes, says Nigella), caught my attention because you can (and have) to decorate the top yourself. So why not indulge in some chocolate-cum-glitter fun?

I have to say, the addition of cocoa powder to an otherwise fairly standard fruit cake is new on my table too, but it really works. Rather than steeping the dried fruit in brandy, sherry or other festive liqueurs, this recipe calls for slow and relaxing stirring over the hob. The heat will infuse the fruit with the coffee liqueur – graciously counteracted by the dark treacly sugar and the honey – to do in 10 minutes what normally would take months. Genius, pure genius. A little word of warning, if I may. Please line the tin as instructed, making sure there the baking parchment is twice as high as the cake tin itself. This will help protect the cake and avoid any possible burning. Also, keep an eye on this one. I baked it for 2 hours exactly, but the top was already starting to look a bit scorched…

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 350g soft dried prunes, chopped
  • 250g raisins
  • 125g currants
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 175g honey
  • 125ml coffee liqueur (I used Kahlua)
  • 2 oranges, zest and juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/s tsp bicarbonate of soda

Ingredients (for the decoration – my version)

  • 3 tbsp of apricot jam, warmed through with 1 tsp water and sieved
  • chocolate stars (MilkyWay)
  • soft gold pearls
  • white shimmer pearls
  • Cadbury minstrels
  • gold and silver glitter
  • white chocolate chips

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 150C. Grease and line a 20cm deep cake tin with baking parchment, making sure to line the sides too.
  2. Place the dried fruit, orange zest and juice, sugar, honey, coffee liqueur, spices, butter and cocoa into a wide saucepan. Melt over a low heat until fully combined, then bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Once cooled slightly, add the eggs. It’s important to cool the mixture before adding the eggs or you will end up with scrambled eggs in the mixture. Not nice.
  4. Mix those in, then fold in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarb. Combine all of the ingredients together to obtain a light brown mixture. Tip that into the cake tin and bake on the lower shelf of the oven for about 2 hours.
  5. Check the cake is cooked all the way through with a skewer. This should come out clean.
  6. Place the cake on a cooling rack and leave to cool completely in its tin.
  7. Once cooled, remove from the tin, unwrap the baking parchment and sit on a cake platter/dish.
  8. Brush the whole cake with the sieved apricot jam. Decorate with the sweets and the glitter the way you want. I opted for chocolate stars and white chocolate chips on the outer edge, chocolate minstrels in the middle, pearls all around and a final scattering of silver and gold glitter. You need to be your own artist here!

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