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 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 will, wrapped in clingfilm and foil, in an airtight tin for up to 3 days, or can be frozen undecorated.
How to Decorate
- 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.
To Make the Antlers
25g sunflower spread
25g Demerara sugar
50g Golden syrup or molasses
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda (or use gluten-free baking powder if wished)
1 tsp milled flaxseeds soaked in 1 tbsp water for 5 mins
125g plain flour
1. Put the spread into a bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, syrup and spice and bring to the boil. Add the bicarbonate of soda (it will puff up) and pour the hot mixture over the spread. Stir until the spread has melted.
3. Beat in the flaxseed mix and slowly blend in the flour. It will look as though there is too much flour but it will blend in.
4. Knead the dough in the bowl until smooth.
5. Roll the dough out between two sheets of baking parchment, to about 3mm thickness.
6. Lift the rolled dough, still on its parchment and put on a baking sheet. Chill for 1 hour. Cut out the outline of 2 large or 12 small antlers. Lift off excess dough.
7. Bake at 170C, 150C fan, gas mark 3 until golden and crisp - approximately 7-12 mins depending on their size.
8. Cool on a wire rack and when cold, attach a long wooden skewer or cocktail stick to the back of each antler with strong tape and push into the cake either side of the nose.
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!