- Fruit group one:
- 75 g mixed citrus peel, finely chopped
- 50 g dried ginger slices, finely chopped
- 200 g dried Turkish figs, finely chopped
- 6 T brandy
- 2 cups strong Earl Grey tea (or rooibos)
- *Fruit group two:
- 200 g preserved naartjie halves (or use orange or kumquat), chopped into 5 mm pieces
- 400 g whole preserved figs, chopped into 5 mm pieces
- 200 g preserved ginger, chopped into 5 mm pieces
- 100 g preserved makataan, chopped into 5 mm pieces
- 1 x 227 g can pineapple rings, chopped into 5 mm pieces
- Fruit group three:
- 100 g dried Turkish apricots, chopped into 5 mm pieces
- 200 g sundried pitted prunes, chopped into 5 mm pieces
- 200 g dried cranberries
- 6 x 250 g packets cake mix
- 500 g pecan nuts, broken into large chunks
- 520 g caramel sugar (or soft brown sugar)
- 1 T bicarbonate of soda
- 500 g unsalted butter
- Fruit group four:
- 200 g green glacé cherries
- 100 g red glacé cherries
- 150 g mixed glacé cherries
- 1 x 225 g bottle maraschino cherries
- Wet ingredients:
- 10 extra-large free-range eggs
- 2 ½ T vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- 1 cup brandy
- Dry ingredients:
- 700 g cake flour
- 2 ½ T baking powder
- 2 t salt
- 2 t cinnamon
Using 3 springform cake tins (22 cm each), line them as follows:
Line the bottom of the tins with 6 layers of newspaper.
Line the sides with a double layer of brown paper – the paper should protrude about 6 cm above the tin. Add a single layer baking paper – also 6 cm higher than the sides of the tin.
Add a double layer of brown paper to the newspaper at the bottom of the pan, followed by one layer of baking paper.
Use 6 layers of newspaper to “wrap” the tins from the outside (these should also be about 6 cm higher than the pan. Secure the paper with string.
Finally give the insides of the tins a good coating of non-stick spray.
Soak fruit group 1 overnight in a mixture of the brandy and 100 ml of the tea.
Preheat the oven to 150ºC and position the oven rack just below the middle of the oven.
Heat the following together in a large saucepan: the remaining Earl Grey or rooibos tea, the fruit that was soaked overnight, all the fruit in groups 2 and 3, the nuts, brown sugar, bicarbonate of soda and butter. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool completely. Add fruit group 4 once the mixture has cooled.
In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients, then add this to the fruit mixture. Sift the dry ingredients and stir into the fruit mixture. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tins.
Put the pans into the oven and put a whole folded newspaper on top to prevent them from burning. Bake for 2 hours, then reduce the temperature to 120ºC. Bake for a further 2–3 hours, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Switch off the oven and let the cakes cool down in the oven – this is to make sure they are cooked through right to the centre.
Turn out the cakes and sprinkle 4–5 T brandy onto each cake. Wrap each cake in foil and place into a plastic bag that you can seal properly. Sprinkle 4–5 T brandy onto the cake once a week for three weeks.
Cook's note: This is an expensive cake – and requires really a lot of trouble. But life is too short for cheap, boring Christmas cake. So please do two things: save up for the ingredients, and block out a whole day to prepare the pans and chop the fruit. And bake them at least 3 weeks before you want to eat them. You won’t regret it.
*The fruit in this group are all wet fruit that can be substituted to taste or according to what’s available.