Allyson Gofton

Traditional fruit cake

Preparation Time: overnight
Cooking Time: 3-4 hours
Serves: 1x 25cm cake

Ingredients

500 grams raisins

500 grams sultanas

125 grams dried dates, chopped

150 grams glace cherries, diced

150 grams mixed peel

150 grams sliced or flaked almonds

2 teaspoons ground mace or nutmeg

1 teaspoon mixed spice

teaspoon ground cinnamon or cloves

teaspoon ground white pepper

teaspoon salt

grated rind of 2 oranges

1 cup brandy

500 grams butter, softened

500 grams dark muscovado sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

10 eggs, at room temperature

125 grams self-raising flour

500 grams flour

about 1 cup extra brandy, optional


Method

1.  Grease and line a deep-sided 25cm square cake tin with two layers of baking paper. Make sure the paper has no creases and the corners are as sharp as possible to ensure square edges on the cake.

2.  In a large bowl, put the raisins, sultanas, dates, cherries, mixed peel, almonds, mace or nutmeg, mixed spice, cinnamon or cloves, white pepper, salt, orange rind and brandy and toss together well. Cover and leave to macerate overnight.

3.  Place the oven rack in the lower section of the oven, but not at the bottom. Preheat the oven to 160C.

4.  With an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla essence until it is very light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating very well after each addition.

5.  Sift the flours on top of the creamed mixture and then add the fruit and mix gently. Use your hands, it will be much easier and gentler on the fruit cake mixture.

6.  Pack the mixture firmly into the prepared cake tin and level off the top evenly.

7.  Wrap the outside of the tin in about 6-8 layers of newspapers, folding where necessary to make them look tidy. Secure with string.

8.  Bake in the preheated oven for 3-4 hours. If the cake begins to brown too much, cover with a sheet of baking paper and a thick covering of newspaper.

9.  Place the cake on a board, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in the tin overnight to cool.

10.  Sprinkle about cup extra brandy over the top of the cake. Remove from the tin, keeping the cake in the baking-paper lining and wrap in greased paper and then in foil. Over the next month, continue to pour the brandy in cup lots over the cake and re-wrap well after each time.

11.  Decorate as wished with butter icing or a more classic marzipan and fondant icing.

12.  This recipe will make 4-5 small (12cm) cakes. Prepare the itns as above, but bake for 2-2 hours. They are ideal Christmas gifts.


Cooks Tips

- Read the recipe before beginning, as you need to prepare the fruit the day before.
- Check that you have all the ingredients before starting.
- Prepare the cake tin before preparing the cake. The tin should be greased and lined with two layers of baking paper. The lining on the inside sides of the cake tin should extend above the top fo the cake tin by 2cm. The outside should be wrapped in 6-8 layers of newspaper and tied in place with heatproof string. This will protect the outside of the cake from overbrowning.
- Old recipes call for the fruit to be washed and dried. This is not necessary today with the quality of dried fruit that we can purchase. However, ti si stilla good ideal to wash glace cherries and dry well to remove excess syrup.
- A rich fruit cake is very heavy and the mixture is stiff. This is to support the weight of fruit and nuts in the cake.
- As it takes times to make and cook a fruit cake, you can prepare it one day, over with a loose cloth and bake it the next day.
- Make a shallow indent in the centre. This helps the cake to rise level on top when cooked.

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This is not an overly rich fruit cake. Though by cooking it with dark muscovado sugar you achieve a wonderful warm, mellow flavour. It is best made a month or two in advance to allow the cake to set - this ensure the cake will cut well.