Preparation time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
LittlePod goes liquid! When we launched our award-winning vanilla beer we never expected it to end up in a cake – a souped-up version of an Irish porter cake. People often want to make a cake for Christmas but then leave it until it’s too late. This quick-to-make cake is the answer. As the Irish say: Nollaig shona duit! (Happy Christmas!).
450 g mixed dried fruit
50 g glacé cherries (optional)
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon LittlePod chocolate extract or 350ml, LittlePod vanilla beer or stout
350g plain flour
1⁄4 teaspoon mixed spice
175 g butter or margarine
275 g soft brown sugar
50 g walnuts or 50 g blanched almonds, shredded
grated zest of 1 lemon
1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150 ml LittlePod vanilla beer or stout
1 teaspoon LittlePod vanilla paste, or 1 vanilla pod, (seeds only)
a 20-cm round cake pan, greased and lined with baking paper, with a 5-cm collar
1. Soak the dried fruit, cherries and orange zest in the LittlePod chocolate extract overnight (you could also add the juice of the orange for extra orangeyness), or for at least 1 hour. Alternatively, soak the dried fruit, cherries and orange zest in 350ml of LittlePod Vanilla Beer or regular stout overnight (or for at least half an hour).
2. Preheat the oven to 140°C (275ºF) Gas mark 1. Sift the flour and spice into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter or margarine into the flour and rub it in until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, soaked fruit (after straining it), nuts, lemon zest and stir well.
3. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the LittlePod vanilla beer or stout over a low heat. Beat the eggs, add the LittlePod vanilla paste (or seeds of the vanilla pod) and combine them with the beer mixture, off the heat. Stir this into the dry ingredients and mix well.
4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 2 hours, then turn down the oven to 120°C (250°F), or until nicely browned. If a knife or skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, the cake is cooked.
5. Allow to cool in the pan before turning it out. Do not cut it the same day, if possible; it's best kept to mature in an airtight container. If you add extra dried fruit and decorate with marzipan and fondant icing, it makes a perfect (and much less time-consuming) Christmas cake.