Total Time: +/-
1 x 10g dry yeast
200ml milk, lukewarm
40g white sugar
40g muscovado sugar
400g white bread flour, sifted
½ tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice OR 1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
3 extra large eggs, whisked
3 tbs golden syrup
zest of two large oranges, very finely grated
120g salted butter, room temperature soft (if it is not soft enough, blitz it for 5-10 seconds on the defrost setting of your microwave, but take care not to melt it)
100g fresh cherries, some halved, some quartered (NB: 140g is the weight once pitted)
60g chopped fresh dates
100g raw almonds
1 cup icing sugar
2 Tbs milk
almond essence (if using mixed spice) OR orange essence (if using cardamom)
Making the starter yeast:
Place the yeast, the sugar and ¾ of a cup of the flour in a large bowl and stir in the lukewarm milk. Cover the bowl with cling film and allow the yeast to activate and sponge for 30 minutes – tiny bubbles will appear on the surface, an indication that the yeast is active and doing its job. (If there is something wrong with the yeast and it does not activate you’ll know at this point, and can start over before you’ve wasted any expensive ingredients!)
Making the cake:
Pat the sliced cherries dry with a paper towel, place in a single layer on a large plate and dust with a tablespoon of flour. Also dust the dates with a tablespoon of flour and set aside.
Place the remaining flour in a large bowl along with the salt and spice (either mixed spice or cardamom, but not both) and make a little well in the middle. Once it has sponged, add the yeast mixture to the flour (make sure you scrape everything out of the bowl and no sugar remains behind). Add the orange zest, syrup and whisked eggs as well and mix thoroughly – if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, use that; if you don’t, the best way to mix this is by hand and not with a spoon.
Work the dough for five minutes to activate the glutens, either with the dough hook of your stand mixer or by making pulling/slapping motions with your hand. Now add the butter and mix in until it has disappeared. (It is a very sticky dough, do not be tempted to add any extra flour!) Gently stir the fruit into the dough. Spoon dough into a non-stick baking tin of your choice coated with non-stick baking spray. (To achieve our ‘Panettone’ shape, we used a 15cm (w) x 8cm loose-bottomed cake tin and lined it with a double-layered collar of baking paper protruding 5cm above the rim.)
Spoon the mixture into the tin. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise until the dough has almost doubled in size – how long this takes depends on the room temperature, the hotter the faster it will be, anywhere from 40-60 minutes.
Heat your oven while the cake proves. Tumble the almonds onto a baking tray and roast them for 10 minutes, then remove nuts and set aside.
Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown – test it by inserting a skewer in the middle, if it comes out clean it is done. Remove cake from tin and allow it to cool on a wire rack.
Make the icing drizzle by stirring in the milk. If you used mixed spice, add a drop or two of almond essence to the icing. If you used cardamom, add a drop or two of orange essence to the icing. Drizzle icing over cake once it’s cool and top with chopped nuts and a few whole cherries. This cake is best served within 24 hours of baking it.