350g natural glacé cherries, halved, rinsed, and thoroughly dried
150ml brandy or sherry, plus extra for feeding
2 oranges, zest only
250g butter, softened
250g light muscovado sugar
4 free range eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp black treacle
75g blanched almonds, chopped
250g plain flour
1½ tsp mixed spice
For the decoration
Approx. 3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved
Icing sugar for dusting
White fondant sugar paste
Royal icing (optional)
Brown food colouring (optional)
Cake Angels Winter Wonderland royal icing decorations and sprinkles
For the cake, place all the dried fruit, including the cherries, into a large mixing bowl. Pour over the brandy and stir in the orange zest. Cover with clingfilm and leave to soak for three days, stirring daily.
Grease and line a 23cm/9in deep, round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C for a fan oven/Gas Mark 1.
Add the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a very large bowl and beat well (preferably with an electric free-standing mixer). Add the flour and ground spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for about 4-4½ hours, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after two hours, and if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.
When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little extra brandy. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place for up to three months, feeding at intervals with more brandy. (Don’t remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist.)
The week before you want to serve, begin covering the cake.
For the covering, stand the cake upside down, flat side uppermost, on a cake board which is 5cm/2in larger than the size of the cake.
Warm the apricot jam gently and brush the sides and the top of the cake.
Liberally dust the work surface with icing sugar and then roll out the marzipan to about 5cm/2in larger than the surface of the cake. Keep moving the marzipan as you roll, checking that it is not sticking to the work surface. Dust the work surface with more icing sugar as necessary.
Carefully lift the marzipan over the cake using a rolling pin. Gently level and smooth the top of the paste with the rolling pin, then ease the marzipan down the sides of the cake, smoothing it at the same time. If you are careful, you should be able to cover the cake with no excess marzipan to trim but, if necessary, neatly trim excess marzipan from the base of the cake with a small sharp knife.
Knead the sugar paste and then roll it out on a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar, so it's large enough to cover the top and sides of the cake. Brush water all over the surface of the marzipan. Lift the sugarpaste over the cake, then cut and polish smooth, using the icing smoother and/or side scraper. If there are any air bubbles, pierce them with a pin and rub the surface smooth. To create a winter forest landscape, sculpt mounds from sugarpaste and place on top of the cake before covering with a large sheets of white sugarpaste and smoothing it over and around the mounds.
Use Cake Angels Winter Wonderland 3D royal icing figures and sprinkles to create winter scenes. Create a campfire from coloured icing, or a snowball fight by rolling small snowballs out of sugarpaste and putting in the hands/paws/flippers of the figures. Create tree trunks for the Christmas trees by marbling some sugarpaste with brown colouring and rolling into cylinders to sit underneath, fix the tree to the cylinder using royal icing.