Monday, 11 June 2012

Rich Fruit Cake

Recipe Number Two Hundred & Two:  Page 64.

Despite being halfway through June, the weather has felt decidedly autumnal this past week. A rich fruit cake seemed like the perfect cake to enjoy in such chilly conditions! Judging by the long list of ingredients, this was going to be an expensive cake. I could visualise lugging heavy bags home from the shop. Neil helped me check through the heaving kitchen shelves to see what I already had in stock. I have a habit of buying things without realising that I already have them, getting home only to find them sitting smugly on the shelf, Neil despairs!!! We were pleasantly surprised and amazed when we realised that the only thing missing was a lemon – result! I was pretty much all set to make the fruit cake.

After lunch I took the butter from the fridge to soften. I congratulated myself for thinking ahead! For a change I read through the entire recipe to see what needed to be done. I noted that the dried fruit would have to be soaked in a brandy bath overnight. There was no point in making a start in the early afternoon, so I put the butter back into the chilly confines of the fridge and got on with other things instead. After our meal and usual evening of watching repeats on TV, I went to the kitchen to sort out the dried fruit. I quite liked the idea of breaking up the cake making process. It was nice to think that I wouldn't have as much to do tomorrow!

I weighed the delicious glacé cherries and gobbled a few as I went. I can eat these sticky delights like sweets. No wonder I have more than my share of fillings! After chopping the cherries into quarters, I reluctantly rinsed off the lovely gooey syrup and dried them thoroughly with kitchen towel. It was time to retrieve the jars of currants, raisins and sultanas from the shelf. As much as I love storing them in Kilner jars, I hate opening the lids. The metal clips are rather vicious and often inflict injury! The jars were left almost empty by the time I'd tipped in a generous quantity from all three into the bowl. I wondered if I would have enough room for the dried apricots as my bowl was close to overflowing.

Snipping apricots with scissors is a tedious job but it is quicker than using a knife. I added them bit by bit to the bowl which was sitting on the scales. I managed to calculate that the average dried apricot weighs 7 grams!! The scales must have felt bored too as they gave up and switched off. Luckily I'd kept my beady eye on the weight, so I had a good idea of how much more to add! Last of all, I tipped in the chopped mixed peel. Now it was time to give all this fruit a nice soak in some brandy. A bottle of brandy is very expensive but, when used in baking, it lasts for ages; I've been using this one for over a year and still have half a bottle left. I poured four tablespoonfuls over the fruit. The fumes were so potent that my eyes were burning and my nose tingled! I covered the bowl with a layer of cling film. It felt as though I was tucking the fruit up for the night. This signalled that it was time for me to climb the wooden hill!

The following day it took a long while for me to work up the enthusiasm to finish the cake. I had planned to make it first thing in the morning, but that soon came and went. Whilst Isaac had a lovely long nap, I used the time to sit back and contemplate his upcoming second birthday. He already owns a mountain of toys, so the thought of adding to them was a little disconcerting. However, I have become quite adept at navigating my way through the pile on the floor! My thoughts also turned to THE CAKE. What was I going to do – eeek!! I started to feel the anxiety rise in my chest! Baking always helps to take my mind off any worries, so it seemed a good time to head to the kitchen and complete the fruit cake.

I weighed the flour, spices and a mountain of dark muscovado sugar into my largest mixing bowl. Thankfully my mother-in-law had given me a great big ceramic bowl which she no longer needed. It's the perfect size for heavily fruited cakes or large batches of cake mix. I broke the numerous eggs into the bowl then grated in the zest of a lemon. I was enjoying the fresh zesty scent until the juice sought out an invisible cut on my little finger and attacked. Ouch! Thankfully the orange was better behaved when I shaved off its skin. I only needed a tablespoonful of treacle. It was annoying to get covered in the black sticky substance for such a small quantity! The amount of butter required was quite simply horrifying. I used almost TWO packets. I could only hope that all the fruit would counteract some of the fat!! Next on the agenda were the almonds. It took some time to chop them into rough pieces. I lost a fair amount on the floor as they merrily flicked off the kitchen worktop. After a quick beating with my electric whisk, I was ready to tip in the boozy fruit. I had to use a good deal of elbow grease to work it into the smooth cake mixture. I heaved the heavy mixture into the very well lined tin. It was time to decorate the top of the cake with blanched almonds and glacé cherries. Mary uses this pretty finishing touch for a few of her fruit cakes. It is a simple yet very effective idea. Using what little muscle I have, I transferred the leaden tin into the oven. Surely it weighed more than several house bricks! The cake would need to cook for up to four and a half hours. I called out to Neil in the other room to inform him of the lengthy cooking time. He sounded horrified by my declaration and I couldn't really understand the cause for his alarm. On further discussion it transpired that he'd misheard and thought I'd said four to four and a half DAYS! This had me in fits of giggles for some time!

The cake cooked for just over four hours. It looked a bit burnt, but I reminded myself that this was a rich dark fruit cake. It was a challenge to extract the searing hot cake from the oven. My hands shook as it was so heavy! Rather frustratingly I had to wait for the cake to cool right down before tipping it out and pouring more brandy over the top. Fruit cakes do not cool very quickly. I spent the next forty-five minutes yawning and trying to stay awake. I was the only one up and it was very chilly downstairs. I knew I'd regret this in the morning when Isaac woke up singing at 6.30am! By the time I'd poured the brandy over the cake it was approaching midnight. The cake would have to cool without me, I was going to bed!

By the following morning the cake was obviously stone cold and ready to be wrapped up in a double layer of baking paper and foil. I do not plan letting it mature for long. I am looking forward to seeing my Mum in a week’s time and she loves fruit cake. As soon as we've had a taste, I'll update this post and let you know what it's like!
Apologies for the rubbish photo!

So what did it taste like?

So sorry for late update - I'm so forgetful of late! I took the uncut cake on holiday. I can confirm that it travelled well and arrived at Centre Parc's unscathed! All of the holiday party enjoyed a slice of the cake. The only criticism would be that it seemed a little under done in the middle. This was due to my impatience to get it out of the oven so I could go to bed! Other than that it was a deliciously moist and very fruity cake. I will be making it again as it didn't require as much preparation as other fruited cakes and it still tasted wonderful.
Cut cake!

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