CHRISTMAS TIPS: Celebrity chef James Martin shares his festive recipes for something sweet

Classic cake for Christmas
Classic cake for Christmas

Fancy a traditional fruit and nut cake for Christmas? Celebrity chef James Martin provides the following recipe.

Glacé Fruit And Nut Cake

‘I love this classic fruit and nut cake, which is an adaptation of a family recipe. I’ve always liked glacé fruit, but you do need to buy the good-quality sort. My favourite way to eat a slice of this is spread with just a little bit of unsalted butter.’

Serves 8–10

For the cake:

225g butter, plus extra for greasing

225g caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped

4 large eggs

100g ground almonds

275g self-raising flour

125g sultanas

125g glacé cherries

125g raisins

For the decoration:

150ml stock syrup glaze

50g whole, peeled almonds

5g red glacé cherries, halved

Preheat the oven to 150°C/ gas mark 2 and grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm round, deep-sided cake tin. Cover the outside of the tin with a layer of silicone paper and secure in place with kitchen string. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla seeds in a kitchen mixer or large bowl with an electric whisk, until really light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, then fold in the ground almonds and 200g of the flour.

Place all the dried fruit in a bowl and toss with the rest of the flour so that they are all coated, then stir into the cake mixture until well combined. Spoon into the lined cake tin, smooth the top over then bake for 13⁄4 hours until golden brown and risen – cover the top with baking parchment or foil half-way through if the top is colouring too much. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean – if it doesn’t, return the cake to the oven for a further 5 minutes and repeat.

While the cake cooks, place the stock syrup in a small saucepan and heat until just simmering. Add the almonds and simmer for 3 minutes then lift out onto silicone paper. Drop the cherries into the syrup just to warm through then lift out and place them alongside the almonds.

When the cake is ready, remove and cool in the tin for 5 minutes then arrange the almonds and cherries in rings onto the top of the cake – they will stick to the surface.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin and discarding the paper. Serve in wedges.

Candied Fruit

Christmas Garland

This looks elaborate, but in actual fact it is surprisingly simple to make, as long as you have the right mould for baking the brioche. In keeping with the Christmas theme, I’ve decorated the garland with a layer of royal icing ‘snow’ and some really beautiful glacé fruit. (If you want to have a go at making your own, there’s a recipe in my previous desserts book.)

Serves 8–10

1 quantity brioche dough butter, for greasing

50ml spiced rum

zest of 1 orange

zest of 1 lemon

300g candied fruit, such as pears, tangerines, cherries and angelica, roughly chopped

50g sultanas

flour, for dusting

100ml stock syrup glaze

200g royal icing

150g whole glacé fruit, halved or sliced

Make the brioche dough and prove it for 11⁄2 hours (instead of the 2 hours in step 4 of the brioche dough recipe). Generously butter a 24cm bundt tin or savarin mould. Place the rum, orange and lemon zest, candied fruit and sultanas in a bowl and leave to soak for 20 minutes.

Take about 60g of the fruit and scatter into the buttered tin. Lightly flour a work surface then tip the dough out onto it and gently knock the air out of the dough. Spread it out to a large rectangle about 50cm x 30cm and scatter the remaining soaked fruit over the dough.

Roll into a large sausage shape about 50cm long, then twist round into a circle, joining the ends together. Transfer to the prepared tin, cover and leave to rise for 11⁄2 hours in a warm place. Preheat oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5. Bake 30 minutes until golden brown and hollow when tapped on the base of the ring. Remove, turn out upside down and brush with stock syrup glaze, leave to cool. When cold, spread royal icing on top and decorate with the glacé fruit.

Tock Syrup Glaze

Makes 300ml

200g caster sugar

100ml water

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Stir well, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and decant into a sealable container. Leave to cool, then cover and store in the fridge until needed. To use, brush over the baked cake or tart with a pastry brush and then leave to dry.

Brioche Dough

Makes 800g

50ml room-temperature milk

10g fresh yeast

300g strong flour,

10g fine sea salt, plus extra

20g caster sugar

4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks, for glazing

125g softened butter

2 white sugar cubes

Whisk the milk and yeast together in a bowl, then set aside for 5 minutes. Put the flour, salt and sugar into a food mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix to combine. Add the yeast mixture and eggs and mix well, until you have a soft, smooth dough.

Add the softened butter and beat for another 4–5 minutes until it is all incorporated and the dough is soft and shiny. Tip out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm, leave in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours.

Use the dough for a plaited loaf or brioche buns. To make brioche buns or a brioche loaf, flour a work surface then tip the dough out onto it and gently knock the air out. Divide the dough between buttered brioche moulds or place in a buttered 23cm x 7cm, 1kg loaf tin. Cover and leave somewhere warm to double in size.

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Beat egg yolks with a pinch of salt and brush over the top of the loaf or buns. Crush the sugar cubes over the top. Bake 25–30 minutes.

Recipes from Sweet by James Martin (Quadrille £20) Photography: Peter Cassidy.

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