Having eaten more than our fair share of Christmas cake in the Gourmet Traveller office, we’ve made a little adjustment to the traditional recipe, substituting candied orange for the usual mixed peel. You should be able to pick some up at a good delicatessen, or you could just as readily use freshly grated orange rind. The use of fruit cake for celebrations such as weddings, Christmas and christenings dates back to the early 18th century when dried fruit was highly prized. A rich cake containing lots of fruit was a sign of the household’s wealth. You have to appreciate, too, that in times past, making a fruit cake was no easy undertaking. The fruit needed to be washed, dried and stoned, the sugar cut from loaves, pounded and sieved. The eggs beaten for around half an hour by hand and the butter washed in water and rinsed in rosewater. The cakes were often covered in marzipan and elaborately decorated. Perhaps this is why they were reserved for special occasions. It can be made up to six months ahead.
This is my grandmother’s recipe and was a crowd pleaser at family gatherings because it’s moist, not too dark or rich. Begin this recipe 2 days ahead.