This Fig and Walnut Cake is a fantastic alternative to the traditional Christmas Cake. Read on to find out why.
Fig and Walnut Cake – an alternative to traditional Christmas Cake
Over the last few years I’ve been fiddling with my traditional Christmas Cake recipe. I’m a big fan of the original and love the excitement that comes with soaking my fruit for days, cooking the cake for hours and then feeding it with brandy for a month or two before embarking on the decoration process. That being said, it is incredibly labour intensive and as each Christmas comes around I panic about being able to get the cake done in what little time I have.
In an attempt to cut down on the need to soak the fruit and feed the cake for quite so long I’ve been tweaking my original recipe and I have finally come up with a rich, moist fruit cake recipe that can be made the week of Christmas (or Christmas Eve if you’d prefer). Best of all it can be enjoyed immediately!
What makes the traditional Christmas Cake so rich is that it is jam packed full of spices, treacle and booze. Cooking the cake month’s before gives the cake time to “mature” enhancing it’s flavour. But, with my Fig and Walnut Cake recipe you can still serve up a decadent fruitcake without spending hours nurturing the sponge.
The secret to this recipe? Partially dehydrated fruit. Doesn’t sound that exciting does it? But hear me out…
Figs are fantastic in their own right and have been celebrated in figgy pudding for hundreds of years particularly around the festive season. They can also be bought in a “partially dehydrated” state from all good supermarkets and health food shops. I’ve noticed that they are often packaged as “dried” figs but you will see in the window of the packet that they are actually quite sticky and a little moist. These are the figs you want!
Dried apricots are also only partially dehydrated. Bite into one of these orange jewels and you’ll find a soft moist centre. Grab a bag of those from the supermarket too as both the apricots and the figs will add depth of flavour and the additional moisture will cut down on the time required to soak the fruit.
You’ll also need ground almonds as well as walnuts for the sponge. The walnuts not only add crunch but a sweet creamy flavour too. The almonds will help give the sponge a fantastic texture retaining the moisture from the booze.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between a traditional Christmas Cake and my Fig and Walnut Cake is that I choose to serve my Fig and Walnut Cake completely naked. Starkers. In the buff. There’s no marzipan here and certainly no royal icing. No fondant Santa Clause or plastic reindeer either. This is meant to be a simple, no fuss recipe so lets forget the decoration! From a flavour and texture point of view you don’t need it anyway!
- 300g Dark Brown Sugar
- 300g Butter
- 6 Eggs
- 400g plain flour
- 400g partially dehydrated (or dried) figs
- 200g raisins
- 100g dried apricots
- 150g mixed peel
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g walnuts
- Tsp cinnamon
- 2 Tbsp dark treacle
- 2 Glasses of apricot brandy (+ extra for the glaze)
- 3tbsp apricot jam to glaze
- Half an hour before you begin making the cake, dice the figs and apricots into small pieces and add to small bowl with the rest of the drief fruit and cover with the brandy.
- Cover the bowl with Clingfilm and leave the fruit to rehydrate.
- After 30 minutes of soaking the fruit, in a separate bowl beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Slowly add the eggs to the mixture one at a time ensuring they are fully combined before adding the next one.
- Next, fold in the flour, ground almonds, nuts and spices.
- Once a cake batter has formed, stir through the treacle, dried fruit and brandy.
- Place to one side to let the flavours mellow while your prepare the cake tin.
- To prepare the tin, line a 9” x 3 ½ spring form pan with grease proof paper.
- Pour the batter into the tin and use a spatula to make sure it is level.
- Bake for 6hrs on Gas Mark 1.
- Once the cake is cooked though (you can use a skewer to test) leave the cake to cool in the tin.
- Finally, transfer the cool cake on to your cake board.
- Mix a 3 tbsp of apricot jam with an extra splash or two of brandy and mix until combined.
- Using a pastry brush gently cover the outside of the cake with the glaze.
For me, this cake tastes so fantastic just as it is – best served with a big mug of coffee or a cheeky brandy while sat on the sofa Christmas afternoon. You can add a thin layer of marzipan and royal icing if you really want but be careful not too use too much and overpower the cake. If you really do feel the need to add a bit of pizazz to the top, you could always dress the cake with glazed nuts and berries. I’m quite pleased with how stunning the cake looks, standing proud with just a trim of lace. What do you think?
Have you managed to get organised and bake your cake in time this Christmas or will you be doing the last minute dash like me whipping up this delicious Fig and Walnut Cake? Don’t worry I won’t tell your guests!
Festive Food Friday
I’m entering this into the #FestiveFoodFriday link-up with Kerry from Kerry Cooks and Sarah from Taming Twins. Head over to the original post for lots of Christmassy inspiration!