Yes, yes. It isn’t Christmas. So why on earth am I doing a post dedicated to fruitcake?
What started this off was a conversation with my friend. When I waxed lyrical about some fruitcake that my mother made over Christmas, she repressed a shudder, much to my surprise. When asked why fruitcake was shudder-inducing, she responded with, “It’s dull and boring. Not to mention which it’s stodgy, and heavy, and ugh, did I mention heavy?”
“You clearly have never eaten worthy fruitcake”, I said, dismissively. At this point, naturally, she challenged me to produce said worthy fruitcake.
So, a few days ago, when the excitement of Christmas had finally blown over, I fired up the ovens in the test kitchen and got out a much-loved recipe of my mother’s. It’s a very moist and beautifully light cake; very festive and fruity, and it’s perfectly suitable for any occasion and non-occasion. In fact, when I make fruitcakes I frequently make more than one. (Actually, I tend to do that with most things. And yes, in case you’re wondering, why yes, I do own a chest freezer, thank you very much!) ‘One for now’, as I’m fond of saying, ‘and one for later.’ This particular cake freezes beautifully and keeps – well, I have no idea how long it keeps, as the longest a cake has ever stayed in my freezer has been about 50 days or thereabouts – but let’s just say it KEEPS. That’s the most important thing. As we all know, there are some days when one just doesn’t feel like baking, and those are usually the days somebody calls out of the blue and invites themselves over to tea. What better time to bring out fresh homemade cake that’s been sitting in the freezer for – well – 50 days?
One thing that I adore about this cake is that the recipe actually calls for you to throw everything in together. No sifting this in, and adding that in spoonfuls, and certainly no whisking, adding, waiting, whisking some more, until you’re just about ready to throw in both towel AND whisk. Oh, and the grated apple in the recipe makes it dense, yet soft _and_ crumbly. But don’t take my word for it. Just give it a go yourself!
You will need:
200g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
200g dark muscovado sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp black treacle (I substituted golden syrup)
200g self-raising flour
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder
2 eating apples, grated (approx 100 g each)
300g mixed sultanas and raisins
Heat your oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line the base of a deep, round 20 cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Beat the first seven ingredients together in a large bowl until pale and thick. Using a large metal spoon, gently fold in the fruit (apples, sultanas, and raisins) until evenly combined.
Spoon the batter into the tin, then bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until the cake is dark golden, springy to the touch, and has shrunk away from the tin slightly. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when it’s ready. Cool completely before decorating. (At this point, you can freeze your cake, or you can cover and decorate it.)
In order to cover the cake you will need:
3 tbsp apricot jam (I used mixed fruit)
750g marzipan (you can cheat and use bought marzipan)
750 g ready-to-roll white icing
Sit the cake on a plate or covered board. Heat the jam with 2 tbsp water in a small pan until the jam has melted. Sieve, then brush over the cake. Knead the marzipan on a surface dusted with icing sugar. Roll to a round, about 1 cm thick, and wide enough across to cover the cake (about 30 cm for a 20 cm cake).
With a rolling pin, lift the marzipan over the cake and smooth with your palms. Cut off the excess marzipan.
Lightly brush the surface of the marzipanned cake with cooled boiled water. Dust a surface with icing sugar and knead the icing until softened and smooth. Roll out to a round (see marzipan) and ease the icing over the cake (using the rolling pin to help). Dust your hands with icing sugar, guide the icing over the edges of the cake, and then smooth with the help of a straight-edged glass. Trim away the excess icing with a sharp knife.
Now, if you want to decorate the cake you can use star anise, cinnamon sticks, gold dragees, gold candles, a wide gold ribbon to tie around the cake, and bunches of rosemary. But if you just want to prove to your unbelieving friend that fruit cake can be moist, soft, light, and gorgeously yummy, just serve it up.
Her verdict? “Mmmmmm…”
I rest my case.
1) Your cake must be completely cooled _and_ dry before you cover it with marzipan and icing.
2) Your cake must be completely cooled before you freeze it.
3) Store it in an airtight container once you’ve covered it. It will keep for up to a week.
4) Defrost your cake fully before icing it.
5) This cake is gorgeous with a cup of tea or coffee even when it isn’t iced. Don’t be put off by the icing. Just eat it without, if you want to!
Recipe courtesy: Jane Hornby’s Festive Cake (bbcgoodfood.com)