Put the dried fruit in a large mixing bowl and pour in 100ml of the cider or apple juice. Leave to soak overnight.
Heat the oven to 180C, 160C fan, gas 4. Line an 18cm round, 10cm deep cake tin or 6 small 220g baked bean tins with baking parchment.
Put the dates, spice, conserve and remaining 200ml cider or apple juice into a saucepan and simmer gently for 5 mins. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
In a blender or processor, puree the date mixture with the banana. Transfer to a mixing bowl and fold in the citrus zest, soaked dried fruit, polenta and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites or aquafaba into soft peaks and fold into the fruit mixture. Spoon into lined cake tins.
Bake for 25-30 mins for individual cakes or 45-50 mins for a large one, covering with foil after 30 mins. A skewer pushed into the centre of the cake should come out clean when it's cooked.
Drizzle the brandy or sherry over the hot cake, if using, then leave to cool in the tin. The cooked cakes keep well, wrapped in clingfilm and foil, in an airtight tin for up to 3 days, or can be frozen undecorated.
-To make the reindeer cakes, make two large fruit cakes or 6 individual cakes.
-Sandwich the two large cakes together with extra Bonne Maman conserve.
-Roll out 300g white fondant icing and, using the cake tins as a template, cut a curving line about 3cm out from the edge of the tin.
-Brush the top of the cake/s with a little extra Bonne Maman conserve and cover the top/s with the fondant icing.
-Roll 50g red fondant icing into one large or 6 small red ‘noses’ and press onto the middle of the cake/s.
-Using 250g gingerbread biscuit dough (see our Spiced Christmas Wreath for a recipe), draw the outline of two large or 12 small antlers.
-Cut out, brush with beaten egg, and bake till crisp.
-When cold, tape a wooden skewer or cocktail stick to the back of each antler with strong tape and push into the cake either side of the nose.
-Alternatively, use stiff brown card for the antlers.
-Decorate with red gingham ribbon and bells.
Bake the mixture in small baked bean tins to make cute individual Rednosed Reindeer cakes to give away as gifts and of course, one to put out for Santa and Rudolph on Christmas Eve!
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