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Rich Fruit Cake

1lb dried currants (450g)
6oz sultanas (175g)
6oz raisins (175g)
2oz glace cherries (50g) rinsed and finely chopped
2oz mixed whole candied peel (50g), finely chopped
3 tablespoons of brandy
8oz plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
8oz unsalted butter (225g)
8oz soft brown sugar (225g)
4 large eggs
2oz almonds (50g) chopped - the skins can be left on
1 dessertspoon black treacle
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind of 1 orange

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275 degrees F, 140 degrees C. An
8-inch (20cm) round cake tin, or a 7 inch square cake tin greased
and lined with greaseproof paper.

The night before you bake, place all the dried fruit and peel in
a bowl and soak in the brandy. Cover the bowl with a cloth and
leave to soak for at least 12 hours.

Sift the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, and in
a seperate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until the
mixture is light and fluffy.

Next, beat up the eggs and - a tablespoon at a time - add them to
the creamed mixture, beating thoroughly after each addition. If it
looks as if it might start to curdle, you can prevent this happening
by adding a little of the flour.

When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices (fold,
don't beat). Now stir in the fruit and peel that has been soaking,
the nuts, the treacle and grated lemon and orange rinds.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and spread it out
evenly with the back of a spoon. (If you do not intend to ice this
cake, at this stage you can arrange some blanched almonds over the
surface - but do it lightly or they will disappear forever into
the cake!)

Tie a band of brown paper around the outside of the tin, and cover
the top of the cake with a double square of greaseproof paper (with
a hole in the middle approximately an inch - 1.5 inches across).
Bake the cake on the lower shelf of the oven for about 4.25 - 4.75
hours and don't open the door to peek until at least 4 hours have
passed.

When the cake is cold, wrap it well in double greaseproof paper
and store in an airtight container. I like to "feed" it at odd
intervals with brandy during storage time. To do this, strip off
the lining papers, make a few holes in the top with a thin darning
needle and pour a few teaspoons of brandy into the cake. Repeat at
intervals for a week or two.

This is the traditional recipe used for celebration cakes and we
like to cover it in apricot glaze, marzipan and royal icing. Be
warned that it should mature and is best eaten about 8 weeks after
baking. If you need American measures, I suggest you look up one
of the conversion sites that have been posted, or better yet, get
a weighing scales so you can do it "properly" :-)

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