THE Cake. The one true Cake. It has left the oven and is now cooling.
Almost every year I make a boiled fruitcake for Xmas. Although last year, the first Xmas that I blogged, I didn't make it because I was in Bhutan at the relevant time of year. I am perhaps a tad late this year, but 2 months ahead is OK. Three would be better, and I have heard of people using a full year.
As a child, I disliked fruitcake, but then we only had shop ones. Mum never made one in my memory, though she tells me she did once when I was three. Somewhere about my 3rd year uni is when it changed - a bunch of us visited a friend's girlfriend's house, and her mother offered us cake. I took a small piece, just to be polite - and then I immediately demanded the recipe, and have been making it almost every year ever since. The recipe here is metricised from the old one, and I have varied it a little bit now and then. It's remarkably easy to make and very reliable.
Recipe: Boiled Fruit Cake
1 bottle brandy
500g mixed dried fruit
500g mixed glace fruit
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
2 cups sugar
3 heaped tsp mixed spices
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Put the dried fruit, butter, sugar, spice, carb soda and 2 cups of brandy in a very large saucepan, like a stockpot. Don't fill more than 1/4 of the way up. Bring to boil, stirring well to melt the butter, and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and leave for an hour to soak and cool.
Sift the flour, and beat the eggs. Add glace fruit and nuts to the cooled mixture. Stir in the beaten eggs. Fold in the flour.
Tip into a brown-paper lined 25 cm square cake tin. Bake at 140C for about three hours, or until it smells done, and a testing skewer comes out clean. Pour 1/2 cup brandy over the cake immediately it comes out of the oven.
When cool, wrap it up - cake tin and all - in newspaper. Store in a cool place. Every week, open it up and drizzle over another 1/4 cup of brandy. Keep at least a month before eating.
Note: do *not* seal with foil or plastic, it needs to breathe.
Apply any of the following variations:
* Brandy - in the baking, you can swap in non-alcoholic liquids, like fruit juice. Or use half water, half brandy; or some sweet liqueur like Drambuie or cherry brandy. However, you must use alcohol for the post-baking marinading. This is not a cake for AA members. Brandy isn't obligatory: use whisky, rum or even sherry if you prefer, but not a sticky sweet liqueur.
* Dried fruit - I like to use mostly raisins and currants, but you could use chopped dried apricot, dates or craisins.
* Glace fruit - I like plenty of mixed peel, and some glace cherries and apricots. Often I add glace pineapple and ginger, but not this year.
Don't buy pre-mixed fruit from the supermarket - that contains nasty fake glace cherries made from gelatine. Health food shops tend to have better mixes.
* Flour - swap up to half a cup of cocoa for some of the plain flour. Especially if you like to use lots of cherries.
* Nuts - brazils and macadamias (unsalted, of course) are a nice alternative to almonds.
* Spice - this year I used Herbie's mixed sweet spice with rose petals. I mostly keep it quite simple with cinnamon and allspice.
* Decoration - it doesn't need any, but you can do royal icing if you like, or top it with glace fruit like the one that I prepared earlier. (Photo from 2006.)