Christmas Chocolate Fruit Cake

From Cherrapeño

A different kind of fruit cake, studded with nuts, dried fruit and chocolate. One of the nice things about this recipe is that you can make substitutions to your liking - for example, swap the dried cherries for dried cranberries or apricots, sultanas for raisins, almonds for pecans and brandy for rum.
Instead of the traditional marzipan and thick fondant icing, I used white chocolate to cover the top of the cake, made some fondant snowflakes and sprinkled with edible glitter.

75g dried cherries (or cranberries)
75g sultanas (or raisins)
175ml brandy (or rum)
50g flaked almonds
100g whole macadamia nuts
100g whole blanched almonds
300g good dark chocolate, roughly chopped
125g unsalted butter, softened
50g caster sugar
100g plain flour
3 eggs
175g ground almonds
450g clear runny honey
1 tablespoon apricot conserve
Extra brandy to pour over cake

Soak the dried cherries and the sultanas in a bowl along with the brandy for at least one hour or preferably overnight.

Set the oven to 14oºC and line a 23cm (9") deep cake tin with baking parchment. A spring form tin or one with a removable bottom is ideal.

Spread the flaked almonds, macadamia nuts and blanched almonds onto baking trays and roast in the oven until brown, about 5-8 minutes - keep an eye on them, they can easily burn. Let the nuts cool before chopping.

When the whole nuts are cool, chop them finely with a large knife on a chopping board. Don't chop the sliced almonds, they go in as they are.
Roughly chop the chocolate.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the flour and half of the ground almonds.

Add the honey to the marinating fruit, along with the apricot conserve. Stir well. Pour this mixture into the large bowl, along with all of the nuts (including the remaining ground almonds) and the chopped chocolate. Stir well until everything is incorporated.

Pour the cake mixture into the deep cake tin and bake for between 2 - 2½ hours. Keep an eye on the cake and test with a cake tester or a skewer until it comes out clean. You may need to cover the cake with some foil to stop it getting too brown. Leave the cake in the tin to cool.

Once cool, make a few holes in the top of the cake and pour over 3-4 tablespoons of brandy. You can do this a few more times to make the cake moist and rich before decorating.

The cake can be kept well wrapped for a few weeks in a cool dark place, feeding with the alcohol every so often, or it can be frozen for a couple of months.