When I was making this cake for one of my TV programmes, the cameraman, Wee Nev (Neville Kidd, the eminent director of photography), said with force, ‘Eugh, I HATE prunes!’ But when he ate it later, he proclaimed it to be the best Christmas cake he’d ever had.
And he asked for the recipe so he could ask his wife to make it for Christmas. I don’t mean to crow; it sounds so undignified.
But it’s important that you know how universally seductive this cake is, for all that it starts off ‘350g prunes’.
Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan 130°C/gas 2 and prepare a 20cm x 9cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin by lining the bottom and sides with a double layer of baking parchment (though I find that if you use one layer of that tough, reusable silicone baking parchment, my beloved Bake-O-Glide, it does the job well enough, and as the cake is so dark, you don’t see if it catches a little).
Put the fruits, butter, sugar, honey, Tia Maria, orange juice and zest, spice and cocoa powder into a large, wide saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring as the butter melts.
When the 30 minutes are up – it will have cooled a little, but you can leave it for longer if you want – add the beaten eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine.
Place in the oven and bake for 1¾-2 hours, by which time the top of the cake should be firm but will have a shiny, sticky look.
If you insert a cake tester or skewer into it, the cake will still be a little gooey in the middle.
Put the cake, still in its tin, on a wire cooling rack – it will hold its heat and take a while to cool; once cool, take it out of the tin and, if you don’t want to eat it immediately (like any fruit cake it has a long life), wrap it in baking parchment or greaseproof paper then in foil and store in a cake or other airtight tin.
To decorate, place the chocolate-covered coffee beans in the centre of the cake and arrange the gold stars around the perimeter of the top.
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Then sprinkle some gold mini balls over the whole cake, and the edible glitter over the top, not minding that you will be a-glitter yourself for a while.
Adapted from How To Eat, £14.99 (published by Vintage Classics), Nigella Christmas and How To Be A Domestic Goddess, both £26, and Nigellissima, £20 (published by Chatto & Windus), all by Nigella Lawson © Nigella Lawson. To buy any of these books at 20% discount, go to mailshop.co. uk/books or call 0844 571 0640, p&p is free on orders over £15. Spend £30 on books and get FREE premium delivery. Discount valid until 15 December 2018. Additional food photography: Lis Parsons
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