As someone who is not very keen on fruit cake and has never made a Christmas Cake before, always relying on my mother to fulfil this duty, I felt it was time to make my own. However, not being a fruit cake lover rather spoilt the idea of making my own for the simple reason that I would not be able to enjoy it - selfish I know. I will make a small traditional Christmas Cake for my parents this year, but found this lovely recipe for Bolognese Christmas cake in Ursula Ferrigno's book La Dolce Vita.
According to the book, this cake is made in Bologna at Christmas time and was created by the monks of Certosa, who made it for the Cardinal Lambertini.
As I have never made it before I cannot vouch for its taste, it has been wrapped in parchment paper and foil and needs to be stored for a month before eating. I will let you know how successful it has been.
In the meantime, here's how to make it.
It does look a little burnt at the edges, so I would suggest a slightly shorter cooking time of one hour and test it, the recipe calls for it to be cooked for one and a quarter hours - will serve sixteen.
3 tbsp Marsala
5 tbsp fragrant honey (I used organic runny honey)
225g caster sugar
85g unsalted butter
1 tbsp fennel seed or aniseed (I used fennel seeds)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
115g dark chocolate with 50% cocoa solids
6 eating apples
115g candied orange peel
500g plain white or 00 Italian flour
225g blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
115g pine kernels
1/2 tsp baking powder.
Soak the raisins in the Marsala for at least 30 minutes (preferably overnight).
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm (9in) loose bottomed round, deep cake tin.
Heat together the honey, sugar, butter and 2 tbsp water until the sugar has dissolved. Crush the fennel seed or aniseed and add to the mixture together with the cinnamon. Pour into a large bowl.
Coarsely chop the chocolate. Peel, core and grate the apples and chop the orange peel.
Add the raisins, chocolate, apples, orange peel, flour, almonds, pine kernels and baking powder to the bowl and mix well together - it really does need to be a large bowl because it is a lot to combine.
Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for about 1 1/4 hours - or as I said above, bake for one hour and then test with a cake tester. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Wrap in parchment paper and foil and store for a month before eating.
After this time - decorate as you wish or brush 2 tbsp of apricot jam on the top and stud with crystallised fruit and blanched toasted almonds, then brush with a further 1 tbsp of apricot jam.
I hope this tastes as good as it sounds.