Twelfth Night Cake

Twelfth night was celebrated, in some places, with far more feasting and festivity than Christmas itself. Traditionally, a special cake containing a dried bean was served, and whoever found it would have good luck in the coming year. This is a rich fruit-cake, which could be made for any special occasion.


makes 25 - 30 slices
350 g (12 oz) butter
350 g (12 oz) caster sugar
6 eggs, beaten
75 ml (5 tbsp) brandy
350 g (12 oz) plain flour
5 ml (1 tsp) ground allspice
5 ml (1 tsp) ground ginger
5 ml (1 tsp) ground coriander
5 ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
700 g (1 1/2 lb) mixed dried fruit
50 g (2 oz) blanched almonds, chopped
45 ml (3 tbsp) apricot conserve
900 g (2 lb) almond paste
4 egg whites
900 g (2 lb) icing sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) lemon juice
10 ml (2 tsp) glycerine
glace fruit, angelica and silver balls, to decorate


1. Grease a deep 25 cm (10 inch) round cake tin and line the base and side with greaseproof paper.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs and then the brandy, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour, spices, fruit and nuts.

3. Turn into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake at 150°C (300°F) mark 2 for 2 1/2 hours or until firm to the touch. Cover with paper halfway through cooking if the cake browns too quickly.

4. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.

5. When the cake is cold, heat the apricot conserve in a small saucepan until just melted, then brush over the top and sides of the cake.

6. Measure around the cake with a piece of string. Dust the working surface with icing sugar and roll out two-thirds of the almond paste to a rectangle, half the length of the string by twice the depth of the cake.

7. Trim the edges, then cut in half lengthways with a sharp knife. Gently lift the almond paste and place it firmly in position around the cake. Smooth the joins with a palette knife and keep the top and bottom edges square. Roll a jam jar lightly around the cake to help the paste stick more firmly.

8. Roll out the remaining almond paste to fit the top of the cake. with the help of the rolling pin, lift it on to the cake. Lightly roll with the rolling pin, then smooth the join and leave to dry for up to 4 days before starting to ice.

9. Make the icing 3 days after covering the cake with almond paste. Whisk the egg whites until slightly frothy. Then sift and stir in about one quarter of the icing sugar with a wooden spoon. Continue adding more sugar gradually, beating well after each addition, until about three-quarters of the sugar has been added. Beat in the lemon juice and continue beating, until the icing is smooth.

10. Beat in the remaining sugar. Finally, stir in the glycerine to prevent the icing becoming too hard. Cover and keep for 1 day to allow any air bubbles to rise to the surface.

11. The next day, use two-thirds of the icing to roughly flat ice the top and sides of the cake. Leave to dry for
24 hours.

12. Spoon the remaining icing on top of the flat icing and roughly smooth over it with a palette knife. Using the palette knife or back of a teaspoon, pull the icing to make rough peaks. Decorate lavishly with the glace fruit, angelica and silver balls, then leave to dry completely.

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