Nancy’s Rudolph Christmas cake

Nancy Birtwhistle’s last-minute Christmas cake is packed with fruit and festive spices, then iced and decorated with three edible reindeer

  • Prep:1 hrs 15 mins
    Cook:2 hrs
    plus soaking and cooling
  • Serves 15
  • More effort

Nutrition per serving

  • kcal 1004
  • fat 23g
  • saturates 10g
  • carbs 187g
  • sugars 171g
  • fibre 3g
  • protein 10g
  • salt 0.7g

Ingredients

  • 2 x 500g packs mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 100g glacé cherries, washed, dried and cut into quarters
  • 4 tbsp Cointreau, brandy or Madeira (or the juice from the orange, below), plus a little extra for soaking, if you like
  • 250g pack salted butter
  • 250g soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ whole nutmeg, finely grated
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • zest 1 orange
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 85g smooth apricot jam, melted
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
  • 750g marzipan
  • 1.2kg ready-to-roll white icing
  • brown, red and black food colouring
  • 3 pretzels, halved
  • gold string
  • sparkling red ribbon, to tie around the base
  • a pin

Tip

Nancy's slow-cooking tip

In this recipe the cake is baked for two hours – but, if you have the time, it’s well worth cooking it at a lower temperature for longer: 110C/ 90C fan/gas 1/4 for 8 hours. I usually put it in
the oven just before going to bed, and take it out early the next morning. The benefit is that the cake bakes slowly while you are asleep and doesn’t occupy the oven during the day, when you may want to use it for other things. 

Per serving undecorated (15)

494 kcals - protein 6g - carbs 78g - fat 16g - sat fat 9g - fibre 3g - sugar 66g - salt 0.4g

Method

  1. The night before making the cake, put the mixed fruit and cherries in a bowl, add your chosen spirit or orange juice, cover with cling film and leave to soak for 8-12 hrs. If you don’t have time to soak the fruit, put the bowl in the microwave for 5 mins, stir, then microwave for 5 mins more before leaving to cool completely.

  2. Grease a 23cm springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment. Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 3. Using a large bowl and electric hand whisk, or a stand-alone mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. Spoon in the golden syrup, then add the beaten egg in 4 additions, whisking well after each and adding 1 tbsp of the flour to prevent the mixture from curdling. When all the eggs have been incorporated, gently fold in the rest of the flour and the spices. Finally, fold in the soaked fruit and the orange and lemon zest. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with the back of the spoon. Bake for 2 hrs or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Your kitchen will be filled with lovely Christmas smells!

  3. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 30 mins. Remove from the tin and place on a wire rack until completely cold. If not decorating straight away, wrap the cake in foil to store. If you’ve made your cake a few weeks before you want to eat it, you can brush the cake with a little extra alcohol every week for up to 4 weeks. This will keep it moist and add flavour.

  4. To decorate the cake, brush all over with a little melted jam. Lightly dust your work surface with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan to a circle, large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Lift the marzipan by hanging it over the rolling pin and drape it over the cake. Smooth the marzipan down the sides of the cake, then trim away any excess from the bottom. Brush the marzipan all over with the remaining apricot jam, then roll out 1kg of the fondant icing and, using the same method as for the marzipan, cover your cake with the icing. Trim the edges and smooth out any marks with the palm of your hand, rubbing the icing to give it a shine.

  5. Knead the remaining icing, then cut off a small piece, about the size of a small marble, and set aside. Colour the large piece of icing with brown food colouring, adding a little at a time and kneading in well, until you have the desired colour. Divide the icing into 3, then shape a reindeer – body, head, 2 feet and a tail – from each piece. Mix 1 tbsp icing sugar with a tiny splash of water to use as a glue. Stick the head onto the body and squash down a little. Use a small knife to make three indents in the feet, then stick to the reindeer body, along with the tail.

  6. Remove a small piece from the reserved icing to make Rudolph’s red nose. Colour with red food colouring, then use the icing glue to attach to one of the reindeer heads. Colour the remaining icing black and shape into two more noses and two eyes for each reindeer, then stick onto the heads. Poke half a pretzel into either side of the reindeers’ heads to create antlers. Use a little of the icing sugar glue to stick the reindeer to the top of the cake, then tie the gold string around their bodies to create reins. Finish the cake by tying a sparkling red ribbon around the base and securing it in place with a pin.