22 December 2010

Delectably rich fruit cake

I've had a couple of requests for our Christmas cake recipe and I'm happy to oblige.  This cake is really easy to make, it's full of dried fruit and nuts - so you might already have the makings in your pantry, and it will keep for up to three months - but if it lasts that long, I'd be amazed.  It's also versatile.  You can ice this cake and make it into a wedding cake, eat a slice with butter on it, or pour a good egg custard over it for a delicious dessert.  We have it here with a cup of tea and as I bite into the moist fruit and crunchy nuts, the taste of brandy on the top tells me it's Christmas time.  Naturally, if you're serving this to children, you'd leave the brandy off the top but any alcohol in the cake itself would be cooked out to leave just the taste without the alcohol. It's an easy cake to substitute ingredients if you're short on one thing, so if you wanted to leave out the alcohol, you could easily use fruit juice instead.  This is a real traditional seasonal treat.  I hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and when I looked up my recipe book, it's not called "deliciously moist fruit cake" as I described in my previous post, but:

1/3 cup pitted prunes, halved 
1 1/2 cups sultanas (golden raisins)
1 1/2 cups currants - I used 3 cups of mixed fruit for these two
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup brandy - I used mostly brandy.  If you don't want to use alcohol, use fruit juice.  I also added pomegranate juice to mine.  Whatever you use, you'll need one cup of liquid.
125 grams|1 stick butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup plum jam - I used lingonberry jam
1 cup plain|AP flour
3/4 cup self raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg - I didn't have mixed spice so I used 1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups glace cherries
1 1/2 cups halved dates
1 cup mixed dried peel
2 cups walnuts - I used half and half walnuts/pecans

Combine prunes, sultanas|raisins and currants in a bowl and pour in the sherry|brandy|fruit juice.  Stir, cover with a tea towel and leave overnight for the liquid to soak into the fruit.

The next day:
Grease  23cm round cake tin and line with baking paper.

Cream butter and sugar in a small bowl, add eggs one at a time and beat each one in before adding the next.  Transfer mixture to a larger bowl, stir in combined coffee, water and jam, then the dry ingredients in two lots, mix well before adding the second lot.  Add prune mixture, cherries, dates, peel and nuts to the mix and combine well. Add to the cake pan and smooth the top.  If you want to add decorations to the top, like I did with the cherries and almonds, add them now before it goes in the oven.  Bake in a slow over 170C|340F for about two hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.   Don't overcook it, you want a moist cake not a dry one.  If you want to pour brandy or sherry over the top, do it when it's hot from the oven.  The cake just soaks it up.  Otherwise, heat two tablespoons of apricot jam or orange marmalade in the microwave and brush it on when the cake is warm.  You'll get a beautiful shiny cake.  

Hanno and I have not only test tasted our little cake, we've finished it and eaten one slice of the big cake.  Yep, it's delicious.  I have seen these cakes made up as several small cakes, decorated with a Christmas ribbon, wrapped in plain brown paper and given as gifts.  They're always appreciated because people think they're really difficult to make.  As you can see by the above, they aren't and it's a very forgiving cake.  It takes substitutes well and even new cooks can make a silk purse with this cake.  

Generally, this cake would be made during November, cooled completely, then wrapped in parchment paper then aluminium foil, and stored in a cupboard, or fridge if you're in a humid climate, to mature and bring out the flavours.  It's like a relish - the flavours improve when it's left to mature.  But even if you don't do that, even if you eat it the next day, I'm sure you'll love it.  Just don't be surprised if you notice the flavours improve each day it if takes a week or two to finish it.

Thanks to everyone who helped out with comments yesterday.  I received another email from the young woman this morning - she's very grateful for the help we gave. She and her husband will be travelling away to their parents for Christmas and using the time to work out a strategy based on what they read.  :- )

Tomorrow we'll be bottling our ginger beer.



  1. I follow your blog from here in NZ, and love it.

    This cake looks amazing. I made mine yesterday, but I wish my recipe had prunes in it!!!!
    Looks yummy. There's always next year! :-)

  2. I will have to give this fruit cake a try. I usually candy my own fruit every year. (A 45 day process) Due to circumstances in our life right now we won't have any for this years Christmas.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you so much Rhonda:)
    I was looking for the recipe everywhere in my old Womens Weekly books,lol,but I did go with another old recipe and since the weekend have cooked six Christmas cakes for gifts,yes I agree that people do think they are difficult to make,but they really aren't.Only thing I found is it can work out a tad expensive for the fruit and nuts,but with times the way they are,the Christmas cake worked out cheaper than the normal gift for close family:)

  4. Thx so much for the recipe--will try your idea of the mini cakes as gifts. I like doing gift organising early, so come Nov 2011 will see me baking these!

  5. Rhonda: Thank you all I have to say is MMMMMMMMM.

  6. I've never been a huge fan of fruit cake, but that looks great! Enjoy!

  7. Oh Rhonda, looks lovely! We've been cooking our cakes for decades from the oldest self-published cookbook produced by a the ladies of a nursing home. When you think about it, the oldest recipes used by farming women have always made the best cakes!

    Actually that'd be a nice collection idea - all the oldest self-published cookbooks for all those little gems.

    I've been spending these incredibly rainy holidays trying out recipes for croissants. They've been great to share with friends leading up to Christmas!

  8. I like fruit cake but never had or made one with prunes in it.

    Coffee is on.

  9. hi miss rhonda, i started making the cake but i don't know what you mean by dried fruit pealing.

  10. Hello anonymous. In Australia we can buy a packet of dried orange and lemon peel cut into small pieces. That is what I mean. If you don't have that, make do with either orange or lemon zest to get the citrus flavour or a touch of citrus juice and leave the peel out. This cake is very forgiving.

  11. You have inspired me and I now have two bowls of mixed fruit soaking in Brandy & Sherry. Will finish off tomorrow morning!! :-)

  12. This sounds incredible! I have to be honest here though, fruit cakes are a bit of a joke here in the US - well maybe not everywhere but the fruit cake does get its share is razzing that is for sure. I didn't think people actually ate them, and they always look "not quite right" when I have seen them out for eating somewhere. But the photo you postes of yours made me want a slice right then and there. Can I tell you I have never actually seen anyone eat one? Hope that doesn't sound mean, that isn't my intention. I will have to change the tide in my family. I am going to try this, next year though as this years festivities are almost nill. Thanks so much for enlightening me, that is why I love your blog so much and have been reading for so long. I do miss the weekly kitchen photos though :(

    Thanks for doing what you do!!

  13. R. Reed--hi there, I learned how insular we Americans really are when I moved to S Africa 20 yrs ago and discovered a whole new way of thinking--more of a British way I suppose you could say, but it's not just British, it's also "less American". Hard to explain, but your comment about no one actually eating fruitcakes could've come out of my mouth yrs ago, because I basically didn't know any better/different. Ditto about hanging out laundry vs using the tumble dryer. Thankfully, simple living can unite the cultures/countries around the world and we can learn from one another as we share our differences.

  14. Just like Jaz (I'm from NZ too), I'm a faithful follower of Rhonda's blog. Rhonda, your cake looks devine. I'm also going to give it a go, next year. However, this year, I'm going to continue making my own Irish Creme liquer (better than the brand name ones) - you can use whisky or rum. Got the ingredients today - can't wait to make it up (I've been doing this at Christmas, for the past couple of years). Slightly off topic, I agree with Becca - we can learn a lot from eachother (no matter where we live in the world). Season's greetings to you and yours.

  15. Made this last night and as my rescue chooks are off lay for a while (well we DO have lots of snow here!) adapted it into a vegan cake by subbing the eggs for 1 cup of soya milk and 1 tbsp of cider vinegar. The cake came out moist, well risen and smelling divine!!!


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