Christmas made easy: quince Christmas cake

, Christmas made easy: quince Christmas cake, The Habari News
, Christmas made easy: quince Christmas cake, The Habari News

You could call this a Runcible Christmas Cake, as it has slices of quince and mincemeat – well, the ingredients of mincemeat – just like the Owl and the Pussycat’s wedding feast. It makes for an ultra moist cake with lots of interesting flavours and textures. 

Makes

One 20cm cake – about 22cm once iced. 

Ingredients

  • 125g butter 
  • 125g dark muscovado sugar 
  • 5tbsp sloe gin plus 4tbsp to spoon over at the end
  • Grated zest and juice of an orange
  • Grated zest of a lemon and juice of half 
  • 500g dried fruit: I use 
  • 50g apricots (snipped into 2 or 3) 
  • 50g dried sour cherries 
  • 100g currants 
  • 100g golden raisins 
  • 100g sultanas 
  • 100g figs snipped into three (throw away the stalks)
  • One quince about 250g, poached with 75g caster sugar  (see recipe below)
  • 100g crystallised ginger
  • 50g blanched hazelnuts 
  • 50g candied peel, chopped (optional) 
  • 3 large eggs 
  • 100g ground almonds 
  • 1tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 8 cardamom pods bashed in a pestle and mortar with a fat pinch of salt
  • 150g self raising flour 
  • Around 200g quince cheese (Waitrose or Fine Cheese Co versions are good) 

Method

  1. Double line a 20cm round cake tin with baking parchment. 
  2. Put the butter, muscovado sugar, 5tbsp sloe gin, citrus juice and zest in a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Add the dried fruit and simmer for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. 
  3. Put the oven on to heat up to 150C/fan 130/gas 2 
  4. Add the quince, ginger, hazelnuts, eggs, ground almonds, nutmeg and cinnamon to the fruit mixture. Fish out any cardamom skins from the cardamon salt and add the rest to the bowl. Stir to mix, then sift over the flour and fold in. 
  5. Spoon half the mixture carefully into the tin. Slice the quince cheese and lay over the top – leaving a rim of 1cm around the edge. Spoon the rest of the mixture over the top, and level off. 
  6. Bake the cake for 45minutes then turn the heat down to 140C/120fan/Gas 1 and bake for another hour to hour and a half or until a skewer plunged in the middle comes out without raw mixture on. 
  7. Take the cake out of the oven and skewer it all over the top. Pour on the last 4tbsp sloe gin. Leave to cool in the tin then wrap well in a layer of greaseproof paper and a layer of foil.  Store in an airtight container for up to a month. You can “feed” the cake with 4 more tbsp sloe gin every couple of weeks if you like. 

Hazelnut marzipan 

Ingredients

  • 300g roast ground hazelnuts 
  • 30g liquid glucose
  • 100g icing sugar 
  • 100g caster sugar 
  • 50g beaten egg 
  • To stick on the marzipan: 5tbsp quince jelly or apricot jam, heated gently and rubbed through a sieve. 

Method

  1. Blend the hazelnuts, glucose, icing sugar, caster sugar and beaten egg in a food processor to form a thick dough. Add a little more beaten egg if necessary to bring it all together. Tip on to the work surface and knead briefly. Wrap well and chill until ready to use. Bring to room temperature before rolling.
  2. Brush the cake with the jam or jelly. 
  3. Roll the marzipan out about 8mm thick. Cut a circle just over 20cm across and lay over the top of the cake, easing down the edges. Cut a strip to fit the side – you can do this in several pieces – and press around the sides. Use your fingers to smooth together the seams. Leave to dry for three to five days. 

Royal icing 

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites 
  • 600g icing sugar 
  • 10g liquid glucose 
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Method

  1. Beat the egg whites until frothy then, with the beaters still running,  add the icing sugar a spoonful at a time. When it is all incorporated add the glucose and lemon juice and beat until a thick snowy mass. 
  2. Spread over the cake, smoothing with a palate knife. Leave to set for at least 24hours. 

Poached quince 

Ingredients

  • A quince, about 250g, washed, cored and cut into approx 2.5cm cubes (no need to peel it)
  • 75g sugar
  • Grated zest of half a lemon
  • A vanilla pod

Method

  1. Put all the ingredients in a small pan with about 300ml water: add a bit more if it doesn’t quite cover the fruit. (You can tie the trimmings and core of the quince in a muslin bag and put them in the pan too if you like: it will improve the texture and flavour if you do.) 
  2. Bring slowly to simmering point, allowing the sugar to dissolve.
  3. Cover and simmer very gently for at least an hour (up to two hours) until the quince is tawny, then remove the lid and continue simmering until the liquid has mostly evaporated – a few drops on a cold saucer will set to a gel. Leave to cool.