This sticky and slightly boozy cake is a healthy alternative to Christmas cake. Its cooking will fill your kitchen with a gorgeous spicy festive smell. What’s more, as it’s full of fruit and vegetables, you can easily count it as part of your five a day!
175g dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
120 ml sunflower oil
200g wholemeal self-raising flour
1 and a half teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
3 rounded teaspoons mixed spice
Grated zest 1 orange
200g carrots and parsnips, peeled and coarsely grated
175g mixed dried fruit
100g chopped mixed nuts
For the syrup glaze:
Juice 1/2 small orange
A good glug of Madeira or sherry
40g dark brown soft sugar
You will also need a non-stick baking tin or dish measuring 125.5 x 15 cm, the base lined with greaseproof paper/baking parchment.
Pre-heat oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C).
Begin by whisking the sugar, eggs and oil together in a bowl using an electric hand whisk for 2-3 minutes. Then sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the mixed spice into the bowl, tipping in all the bits of bran that are left in the sieve. Now stir all this together, then fold in the orange zest, carrots, parsnips, nuts and sultanas. After that pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until it is well risen and feels firm and springy to the touch when lightly pressed in the centre.
Now you need to make the syrup glaze. Whisk together the orange juice and sugar in a small pan and bring to the boil and then bubble for about 30 seconds. Take off the heat and add the Madeira or sherry (you don’t want to cook off the alcohol!) Then, when the cake comes out of the oven, stab it all over with a skewer and quickly pour the syrup over as evenly as possible. Now leave the cake on one side to cool in the tin, during which time the syrup will be absorbed. Dust with a little cinnamon and some strips of orange zest.