This delicious cake comes from Christchurch interior designer (and avid cook!) Marilyn Carter-Smith. It combines the best from a traditional Christmas cake with its brandy-soaked dried fruits, the richness of a dense, dark chocolate cake, as well as walnuts and spices. If time allows, soak the fruit for at least 1 week and up to 3 weeks.
500 grams dried fruit cake mix
75 grams glacé cherries
250 grams pitted prunes, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup grated apple, skin on
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 cup brandy
175 grams butter
3⁄4 cup raw sugar
1 3⁄4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and mixed spice
1⁄4 teaspoon ground chilli, optional
250 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped (we recommend 72% cocoa)
finely grated zest 1 orange
3 tablespoons orange juice
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
Fruit: Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Stir daily.
To assemble and cook: Preheat the oven to 150 ̊C and set the rack one level below the centre of the oven. Grease and fully line an 8 cm deep x 20 cm square cake tin with 3 layers of baking paper.
Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. The sugar will not be dissolved. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoonful of the flour with each egg. This stops the mixture from curdling. Combine the remaining flour, baking powder, spices and chocolate in a bowl. Stir the orange zest, juice and baking soda together in another bowl. Using a large metal spoon, fold both mixtures into the butter along with the soaked fruit.
Spoon into the tin and smooth the top. Cover with a piece of baking paper, pressing it onto the mixture. Wrap a thick piece of brown paper around the outside of the tin, securing with kitchen string.
Bake for about 2 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Make sure it’s not just melted chocolate on the skewer. Cool in the tin.
To serve: The cake can be left unadorned or can be iced with a traditional icing or chocolate ganache. It’s also delicious served with fresh berries and mascarpone. Makes 1 cake.
Alternative presentation: Not everyone needs a whole Christmas cake, so a good idea is to cut the 20cm cake into quarters and individually wrap them as a gift as we have done in the photo.
I wanted a smaller, round cake as well as the square cake in the recipe above. I doubled the recipe and filled a 6 cm deep x 15 cm round cake tin to 1 cm from the top. I then put the rest of the mixture into the square tin. Follow the cooking instructions as above.