Decked out streets, lit up trees and loads of delicious food - there are plenty of reasons Christmas is my favourite time of the year. We don't really celebrate Christmas at our place but I've made it a tradition to bake a fruit cake every year. Some years, I soak my dried fruits in advance and there is a traditional cake. This year, though, I only got my act together yesterday and with just a day to go for Christmas, I went for the most logical fallback of Christmas cake procrastinators, the mincemeat cake.
Mincemeat, for the uninitiated, is a British concoction of raisins, apples and other dried fruits cooked down with sugar, butter and rum (or sherry or brandy - some booze basically). It's used to fill mince pies that most Londoners loathe but I love. And I love mincemeat so much I use it to make cookies and this year, cake. This is how I make mincemeat. The fruits I use vary each year and this year's batch was a mix of golden and black raisins, prunes and just because I had a bottle open, sweet white wine instead of rum.
Once you have a jar of mincemeat, the cake is simple. I picked a recipe by Delia Smith and this has to be the best cake I've ever baked, even if I say so myself. I know I'm posting this at the end of Christmas day but it's winter still and this will make an excellent snacking cake to have around the house. At the very least, bookmark this for the next Christmas.
(adapted to my 7 inch tin; Delia's original recipe is for an 8 inch deep tin)
For the day before
250 grams mincemeat
100 ml sweet white wine
150 grams raisins or mixed dried fruits
75 grams chopped dried figs
For the cake
100 grams butter
90 grams dark brown sugar
2 tbsp date syrup or molasses
150 grams plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
zest of 2 limes
50 grams almonds, chopped
The day before you are to make the cake, put all the presoaking ingredients in a bowl, stir to mix, cover and leave in the fridge.
The next day, make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Set the oven to preheat at 170C and line the base of a 7 inch springform tin with parchment paper. Whisk butter, brown sugar and date syrup until they are mixed through. Add the eggs and whisk to combine. Mix the flour with baking powder and lime zest in a separate bowl, then add to the mixture alongwith pre-soaked mince and dried fruits. With a wooden or silicon spatula, mix everything together and pour into the prepared tin. Smooth the mixture as much as you can with the back of a spoon and sprinkle chopped almonds all over the top of the cake mixture.
Bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until the cake is cooked through and the centre springs back when lightly touched. Let cool in the tin for half an hour, then unmould and cool complete on a wire rack. Delia says the cake will keep 3-4 weeks in an airtight tin but with new year's eve around the corner, I won't blame you for polishing this off in the next week or so.