Amaretto Light Fruit Cake

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So, is anybody else starting to get excited about Christmas yet? Especially as Stir up Sunday is this weekend. Stir Up Sunday has its roots in the Anglican Church Book of Common Prayer, being the last Sunday before the beginning of Advent. It reads: “Stir up, we beseech thee oh Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.” Since Victorian times home cooks have traditionally made Christmas pudding on this Sunday. Although, more recently, the day itself is set aside to make Christmas pudding, Christmas cake and mince pies. This Amaretto Light Fruit Cake is a lighter, modern twist on a traditional Christmas cake. Most importantly, it can be made up to a few days before Christmas!

 

Amaretto Light Fruit Cake.

Since not everyone is a fan of the traditional, iced, spiced, dried fruit Christmas cake, creating a lighter version is not only delicious but also fun! And, because I know how time strapped the lead up to Christmas can be, as well as making this cake from scratch I have also included a super easy hack using a widely available cake mix. I really have thought of everything, so that you can enjoy baking your cake.

Amaretto Light Fruit Cake – Not Just For Christmas 

Because this cake is so tasty, making it shouldn’t only mean for Christmas. I originally made this cake for our son’s birthday in October. Since he requested Christmas Cake for his birthday celebration I compromised and made this lighter version with the addition of almond liqueur. After posting a photo of his birthday cake on Instagram I received lots of requests for the recipe. Resulting in me trialling Wright’s Baking Madeira Cake Mix with the same mix of fruit and liqueur.

Cut amaretto light fruit cake on a cake plate with a slice of cake on a separate plate. A bottle of Disaronno liqueur and packet of cake mix.
Amaretto Light Fruit Cake using Wright’s Madeira cake mix.

The resulting cake is an absolute hit. So, no matter which version of the cake you choose to make, they are both delicious. For those who would rather not add alcohol simply leave it out of the recipe. Using almond extract as an alternative, in my opinion would totally change the cake’s flavour. And so is not something I would recommend.

Original birthday cake version of this amaretto light fruit cake.
Baked from scratch Amaretto Light Fruit Cake.

The cake’s texture is moist and light with the fruit evenly distributed throughout. Either serve with a hot cup of tea, or a glass of Amaretto. Since both compliment this cake equally well. Because this cake does contain alcohol make sure that those who are eating it are aware. Finally, adding extra liqueur to the cake will result in a very strong alcohol flavour which doesn’t evaporate during baking. I speak from experience!

Recipe: Amaretto Light Fruit Cake – serves 10-12

Cake Made From Scratch:

225g/8oz Unsalted Butter at room temperature

225g/8oz Caster Sugar

1/4tsp Sea Salt – halve if using free flowing salt

4 Large Free Range Eggs

1tsp Vanilla Extract – I use Nielsen-Massey 

75g/3oz Ground Almonds

325g/11oz Self Raising Flour – alternately use the same quantity of plain flour and add 1tbsp baking powder

400g/14oz Mixed Dried Vine Fruits – I use a mix without citrus peel

200g/7oz Glacé Cherries

60ml or 4tbsp Amaretto Almond Liqueur

Using Wright’s Baking Madeira Cake Mix:

1 x Wright’s Baking Madeira Cake Mix

60ml Flavourless Vegetable Oil – I use sunflower oil

60ml or 4tbsp Amaretto Almond Liqueur

140ml Plain Tap Water

375g/13oz Dried Vine Fruits

200g/7oz Glacé Cherries

Method:

For both cakes use an 8in x 4in (20cm x 10cm) round cake tin that is thoroughly greased with butter and line the base with baking parchment. Note – cut out two circles of baking parchment per cake. One to line the base and the second to place on the top of the cake if it browns too quickly while baking.

Making And Baking The Cake From Scratch

  • First of all, preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan, gas mark 3, 325F.
  • Place the butter, salt and sugar into a large bowl and whisk together until pale and creamy.
  • Next add one egg plus one tablespoon of flour and whisk together until just incorporated. Repeat this step three times until all four eggs have been added.
  • Now add the vanilla extract and amaretto and whisk to combine.
  • Sift the remaining flour (and baking powder) into the bowl and add the ground almonds. Stir together using a large metal spoon.
  • Finally add the dried vine fruit and glacé cherries.
Showing the stages followed to create the fruity batter.
Creating the fruit and amaretto cake batter.
  • Mix the dried fruits into the cake batter .
  • Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin, ensuring the top of the mixture is smooth.
  • Place the cake into the centre of a preheated oven and bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. If the cake starts browning too quickly place the spare circle of baking parchment on top of the cake.
  • The cake is baked when an inserted skewer comes out clean. If raw cake batter clings to the skewer return cake to oven for a further 15 minutes baking then check again.
  • As soon as the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
Steps showing the cake tin filled with fruity cake batter and after it is baked.
Filling the cake tin and baking the cake.

Using The Wright’s Baking Madeira Cake Mix

  • First of all preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan, gas mark 3, 325F.
  • Into a large bowl add the oil, amaretto liqueur and water. Then add the cake mix from the packet.
  • Follow the packet instructions to mix the cake batter.
  • Add the dried vine fruits and glacé cherries and mix into the batter with a large metal spoon.
  • Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top.
  • Place the cake into the centre of a preheated oven and bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. This is longer than the time given on the packet due to the addition of fruit.
  • If the cake starts browning too quickly place the spare circle of baking parchment on top of the cake.
  • The cake is baked when an inserted skewer comes out clean. If raw cake batter clings to the skewer return cake to oven for a further 15 minutes baking then check again.
  • As soon as the cake is baked remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.

Removing Either Cake From It’s Tin And Serving

  • As soon as the cake is cooled it can be released from the tin.
  • Run a palette knife between the outside edge of the cake and inside of the tin.
  • Turn the cake out carefully.
  • Remove the baking parchment circle from the cake base.
  • Place the cake onto a cake plate, cake stand, or board.
Lighter alternative to a traditional Christmas cake.
Amaretto Light Fruit Cake

 

Overhead image of sliced cake served with a glass of amaretto liqueur.
Amaretto Light Fruit Cake

Either cake will keep for up to a week when stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge. Alternatively, as this cake takes minimal preparation compared to a traditional Christmas cake, it can be made and baked the evening before it is needed.

If you have enjoyed this recipe for Amaretto Light Fruit Cake you may also like these:

Dundee Fruit Celebration Cake

Dundee Fruit Cake on a white cake stand.
Dundee Fruit Celebration Cake

 

Chocolate Marble Celebration Cake

Chocolate marble celebration cake filled with Maltesers
Chocolate Marble Celebration Cake

 

Snowy Black Forest Roulade – gluten free

Gluten free chocolate roulade filled with cherries and fresh cream, topped with chocolate trees and snow.
Gluten Free Snowy Black Forest Roulade

 

Christmas really is the time of year when we think of others. Whether it’s family coming to stay, friends popping by for a drink and nibbles, or others in society that do not have the home comforts we enjoy. Making an extra cake, mince pies, or cookies to give out may take little effort from us, yet mean the world to those they are gifted to. So this coming Christmas, I challenge you, as I do myself, to actively give to those in need. Just as our Heavenly Father freely gave His only Son Jesus to the world that we may know Him. Emmanuel – God with us.

From our home to yours, wishing you a very Happy Christmas.

Sammie xx

 

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Meet Our Penguins!!!!

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HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVE

Hello, big apologies for not posting recently.  Birthdays (mine included!!!), Christmas preparation, children breaking up from school, flu bugs etc have simply left me with zero time to write.  So I thought I’d let you Meet Our Penguins!

Hello, I'm Super Daring Penguin!!
Hello, I’m Super Daring Penguin!!

But I’m back and have been up since 4.30 this morning – so I thought I’d finally get round to icing our Christmas cake.  I had already iced and decorated and delivered my parents – in – law’s cake, but not had the time, or energy to do ours!

A simple shooting star, outlined with sparkly, silver, dragée balls.
A simple shooting star, outlined with sparkly, silver, dragée balls.

So their cake was my second attempt at fondant icing.  The bottom of the cake wasn’t brilliant so a silver ribbon secured with a pearl pin covered all my mistakes and my Ma and Pa – in – law were delighted!!  It must be said, I have yet to meet anybody who loves Christmas cake as much as they do, so it’ll be interesting to see if it has made it all the way to Spain!!!!!

Today I woke up early and popped downstairs, in the beautiful, peaceful, quiet of a sleeping house and set about decorating our cake and more importantly, giving our Penguins and Snowman a playground!

Ice skating Penguins, watched over by the Snowman!!
Ice skating Penguins, watched over by the Snowman!!

I will take you through, step by step, the fun I had decorating this years Christmas cake.

For the cake recipe itself, please see

Recipes: Christmas Cake.

For the smaller cake, I used half the cake mixture. Both cakes were covered in marzipan and the fondant in exactly the same way – although the smaller cake obviously used less!! The smaller cake, being only my second attempt at fondant icing, wasn’t finished very neatly at the bottom, where the cake meets the board.  This was solved by the addition of a pretty, silver ribbon, strategically placed around the rim of the cake and secured with a pearl topped pin!!!!

PREPARING THE CAKE : 

Place your Cake onto the cake board (not the cake stand as I did initially and then got myself covered in jam as I realised my mistake and transferred it to the board!!!!).

Heat approx 3 large tablespoons of apricot jam in a saucepan, on a low heat, until the jam is slightly runny.  At this stage you can then sieve the jam to remove any lumps.  I didn’t bother as the jam I’d bought was fairly smooth – and it was 5am and I really couldn’t be bothered!!! But feel free to sieve if you want to – remember, it’s just there as a ‘glue’ for the Marzipan to stick to, so no one will see it!!!!

Warm over a low heat until the jam just starts to loosen and become more liquid.
Warm over a low heat until the jam just starts to loosen and become more liquid.

Next, using a pastry brush, completely slather the top and sides of the cake with the jam.  Don’t worry if some drips on the board as this can be wiped off later.  It really is important to cover the cake thoroughly as the jam will act as the ‘glue’ to which the marzipan sticks.

If you look carefully you can spot that my cake is not on a cake board - very sticky mistake!!!!!
If you look carefully you can spot that my cake is not on a cake board – very sticky mistake!!!!!

 

COVERING WITH MARZIPAN :

Unfortunately Marzipan isn’t as flexible as fondant icing.  It has a tendency to tear when rolled into a large disc and draped over the cake, which is the method I use for fondant.  As the marzipan will be covered by the fondant icing, I use a different method!

Firstly make sure that you have the cake tin  in which you baked you cake to hand.  This will be used as a template for the top of the cake and a rough guide for the sides.

On a clean board or worktop place a light dusting of icing sugar, also dust your rolling pin.  Take the Marzipan out of the packet (I used a 500g packet each for both cakes. My in- laws love marzipan so I just rolled there’s thicker!  Lightly dust your hands with icing sugar a gently knead the marzipan so that it becomes softer and more pliable.  As a guide at this point I divide the marzipan into 2 equal balls.

Roll out the first ball, taking care to make sue the marzipan does not become stuck to the worktop.  When it looks roughly the size of the top of the cake place the cake tin on top of the marzipan.  If it’s not quite big enough roll a little more until you have just over the size of the cake tin.  Then using the cake tin as a template, place on top and cut around with a knife.

Using the rolling pin to drape the marzipan over, place the marzipan disc on top of the sticky cake.

Don’t Worry – if the disc isn’t centralised the jam will make it easy to slide the marzipan into the correct position!!!

Next shape the I the half of the marzipan into a square and roll until youhave a long strip of marzipan, using the side of the cake tin as a guide.  It’s very hard to get an even length, but don’t worry you then just trim the sides before placing the strip of marzipan around the side of the cake.

Use your hands to press and mould the marzipan to the cake.
Use your hands to press and mould the marzipan to the cake.

If there are any small gaps, use the off cut pieces of marzipan to fill them.

 

Patching holes with scraps of marzipan!
Patching holes with scraps of marzipan!

COVERING THE CAKE WITH FONDANT ICING :

Now that the cake is covered in marzipan, the hard bit is over!!! Covering with fondant is going to be a doddle!!!

Firstly, completely clear and wipe down your worktop or board and rolling pin.  When you’re working with white fondant, the tiniest speck of anything will show up – that said DON’T STRESS!!  Decorations can always be used to hide the odd speck!!

To cover the large cake I used 750g of White Fondant icing.

One 500g block and approx half of another block, left over from the smaller cake & wrapped in cling film to prevent drying out.
One 500g block and approx half of another block, left over from the smaller cake & wrapped in cling film to prevent drying out.

Knead the fondant with hands lightly dusted in icing sugar. When nice and pliable form into a ball.

Fondant is very sticky, so keep your hands, worktop & rolling pin well dusted with icing sugar.
Fondant is very sticky, so keep your hands, worktop & rolling pin well dusted with icing sugar.

Pat the ball into an even disc shape. Using your rolling pin, roll outwards from the centre of the disc, turning the disc by a quarter before rolling again. Ensure there is plenty of icing sugar on the worktop so that the fondant moves freely.

Roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.
Roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.

Using the cake tin, again, as a guide, roll out the fondant so that it is wide enough to cover the top and sides of the cake, allowing a good extra couple of centimetres all round to allow for the added marzipan layer.

Using the tin you can roughly guess the final size of the fondant.
Using the tin you can roughly guess the final size of the fondant.

If you prefer to be more exact with your measurements, add the width ( diameter = D) of the tin plus 2 x the height (H) of the tin plus 2cm.

D + (2 x H) + 2cm = Total width of rolled fondant.

Ensure all measurements use the same unit  ie – cm.

Use your rolling pin to drape the fondant over and carefully centralise over the top of the cake. Moving swiftly drape the fondant over the cake.

Note: if the fondant tears badly, remove and start again – the thickness should be that of a £1 coin. Too thick and the fondant will be too heavy and tear, too thin and the fondant will not be strong enough to take the weight of draping.
I hadn't quite centralised the fondant, but I got away with lightly lifting it a moving to the left!!!
I hadn’t quite centralised the fondant, but I got away with lightly lifting it and moving to the left!!!

Working swiftly, use your hands to smooth the fondant over the top and sides of the cake.  I found I almost had to ‘tuck in’ the sides of the cake. There will be excess around the sides, just keep smoothing and gradually a beautiful smooth, snow coloured,  cake will begin to appear!

Using a small, sharp knife, cut away the excess fondant from the base leaving a good 1-2 cm of excess  attached.  Pat and tuck this fondant until the side of the cake is completely covered and using the fondant press down to form a seal with the cake board.  This will help to keep your cake fresher for longer. However if, like me with the smaller cake, you have an uneven finish around the base, remember you can always cover it with ribbon!!!!

A beautifully fondant covered cake. Clean the board with a piece of damp kitchen towel.
A beautifully fondant covered cake. Clean the board with a piece of damp kitchen towel.
DECORATING YOUR ICED CAKE:

Now the real fun begins!!!

For the smaller cake I cut out a shooting star, using a cutter dusted with icing sugar. I dipped my finger in warm water and dampened the back of the shooting star, this allowed me to ‘stick’ it to the top of the cake. Then using edible glue I outlined the star with silver dragée balls. An elegant and travel friendly decoration (thanks Delia for the inspiration!).

A shooting star, simple, but effective.
A shooting star, simple, but effective.

PENGUINS AND SNOWFLAKES :

Seeing as I decided to go ‘off piste’ with my icing this year – usually I use Royal Icing but on a whim, I decided to live dangerously and opt for Fondant.  Chuckle you may, but given that one of the Christmas cakes was a gift and I’d actually only ever used Fondant icing once before, I would say that counts as dangerous. But then I like to live life on the edge!!!!!

Seriously, or not, though, is bought the 6 super cute Penguins, The Snowman and for some strange, whimsical reason, thought it’d be fun to have the Penguins skating on an iced lake with The Snowman watching over.  That was as organised as I got with the decoration!!!!

So at 6am Christmas Eve my vague idea started to take shape.  Firstly I took a blob (approx 70g) of pale blue fondant, kneaded it until soft and formed it into a rough ball shape.  Then I rolled it out, a little haphazardly! The shape you see on the cake is literally the shape I ended up with!!!

The irregular pattern seems more natural than a perfect oval - and the penguins seem to like it!!!!!
The irregular pattern seems more natural than a perfect oval – and the penguins seem to like it!!!!!

Then using 3 different sizes of snowflake, plunge cutters (designed for sugar craft) I cut out different sizes of snowflakes. I attached them and the blue, ice lake using edible glue.

NOTE : Use icing sugar to dust your cutters to prevent the fondant from sticking – it only took me half a dozen goes before I realised this!!!!

I placed the snowflakes in an irregular pattern around the side of the cake,  allowing some of the smaller snowflakes to edge the top, some falling over the edge.  As the lake was an irregular shape, visually I think this worked better than a regular pattern.

I mixed up a thick paste of icing powder, a teaspoon of meringue powder and a little water, to make royal icing.  This would ensure the Penguins and Snowman stuck firmly to the cake and board.

Using a small knife I pasted a small amount of the Royal icing to the base of the Snowman and Penguins and placed them on the cake.  Honestly this was the best bit!  As I was adding the Penguins they all seemed to have their own little personalities.  Yes I know we are talking about inedible cake decorations – just look at their little faces and you will see what I mean!

These two are a bit shy, so they huddle together, on the edge of the lake, watching the others!
These two are a bit shy, so they huddle together, on the edge of the lake, watching the others!

Overall the cake, in my opinion, just has a balance to it. Whilst it isn’t symmetrical it is balanced, but most of all FUN! I’m so glad you got to Meet Our Penguins!

Most of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy, Peaceful Christmas and Fun, Exciting 2015.   Sammie xxxxx
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