Julekage is a Danish Christmas yeasted bread that's redolent of cardamom and cinnamon and chockablock with dried fruit, nuts, and candied orange peel. Don't be daunted by the lengthy ingredient list; you are likely to have many of the items on hand and the rest are grocery staples. This holiday loaf is traditionally topped with coarse pearl sugar, baked in a cake pan (as here) or as a ball on a baking sheet and then drizzled with an almond-flavored icing.
For the loaf: Combine 1 cup of the flour with the granulated sugar, milk powder, yeast, cardamom, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pour in the hot water and mix on medium speed to a thick batter, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, then beat to combine. Add the butter and beat until it has fully worked into the dough, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed, about 3 minutes. Pour in the beaten eggs, then beat until just combined.
Switch to the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour. Beat until the dough becomes a shaggy ball, then increase the speed to medium-high and knead until the dough is shiny and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
Lightly grease a large bowl with melted butter. Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in a slightly warm place until the dough has double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Generously grease a 9-inch cake pan with melted butter. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Punch down the dough and press it flat on the work surface. Mix the cranberries, raisins, candied orange and slivered almonds together in a small bowl, then sprinkle half of the mixture evenly on top of the dough. Fold the dough over itself, then knead until the fruit and nuts are evenly distributed. Press the dough flat again, top with the remaining fruit and nut mixture, then fold and knead again.
Gather and shape the dough into a 5 1/2-inch-diameter ball, then transfer it to the prepared cake pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a slightly warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk the milk and the remaining egg together for the egg wash.
Uncover the loaf and brush evenly with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the pearl sugar. Bake until the top is well browned and glossy, 30 to 40 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when the bottom of the loaf is tapped. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan to cool completely, top side up.
For the icing: Meanwhile, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, 4 teaspoons of milk and the almond extract together in a medium bowl until thick and smooth. Add 1 more teaspoon of milk if the icing is too thick. Drizzle the icing over the top of the cooled loaf. Let set 5 to 10 minutes.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)
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