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The perfect Christmas gift for you or a loved one
Tip the sultanas and apricots into a bowl and pour over the citrus zest and juice. Leave to soak for 2 hrs, or ideally overnight. Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Butter a 900g loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment, leaving about 2cm overhanging. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, ground almonds and mixed spice in a large bowl with a pinch of salt, and whisk to combine until smooth and creamy, about 1 min.
Add the soaked fruit and any juice to the cake batter along with the cherries and mixed peel. Fold everything together using a spatula until the fruit is evenly distributed. Scrape into the tin and level the surface. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 1 hr 30 mins, checking it after 1 hr 15 mins – if it’s getting too dark on top, cover with foil.
The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If any wet batter clings to the skewer, return the cake to the oven for 5 mins more and check again. When ready, put the tin on a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Remove the cake from the tin and decorate straightaway or wrap well to store. Will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks or in the freezer for up to six months.
To decorate, warm the apricot jam in a pan over a low heat to loosen and brush this over the cake. Roll the marzipan out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar until it’s large enough to fit the top of the cake (use the tin to measure). Press the marzipan onto the top of the cake. Repeat this process with the fondant, pressing it onto the marzipan. Trim the edges of the fondant and marzipan to make a neat rectangle. If you like, use mini festive cutters to stamp out shapes from the fondant topping, being careful not to cut through into the marzipan. Crimp the edges and leave to set for 24 hrs before slicing.