Recipe Number One Hundred & Ninety Two: Page 68.
I haven't made a fruit cake for some while. I often hesitate to make them due to the large number of ingredients required and the lengthy cooking time. However, I still have plenty of fruit cakes left to bake and I don't want them all to be left until the end. It certainly wouldn't make for a very thrilling conclusion!
Our weekend was expensive. Our car was at death’s door and it would cost more than it was worth to fix. We had to get a new one fast! The man at the showroom looked bemused when we arrived with all but the kitchen sink. We had to make sure our enormous pushchair and two cars seats would fit. Isaac wasn't fussed about being shoved in and out of cars. He was ecstatic to be clutching a stone he'd found on the forecourt!! We are now the owners of a large family car. Boring and predictable may be, but really the most practical choice!
I didn't get started on the boozy fruit cake until Isaac's tea time. He sat munching his way through Marmite on toast while I got baking. Unfortunately, I first had to do my least favorite job of lining the tin. This time it was even more challenging as I had to line both the base AND the sides, not with one layer but two -argh!! As my every move was being closely observed by a 22 month old, I was careful to keep my frustration to myself. I glued on a smile and pretended that grappling with greaseproof paper and a buttered tin is in fact a great way to spend an afternoon!
I couldn't find a clean sharp knife to chop up several handfuls of dried dates. I ended up using a blunt knife from our cutlery drawer. Suffice to say it took plenty of elbow grease to saw my way through the tough dates. Mission accomplished, it was time to locate a decent sized saucepan and start weighing in the ingredients. For a change I'd actually remembered to take the butter from the fridge hours beforehand. However, I didn't understand the point of softening the butter as it was to be melted in the pan!! Instead of using sugar I was to add a good quantity of golden syrup. Isaac's little feet kicked with excitement when he witnessed the sugary syrup tumble from the tin into the awaiting pan!
I trotted over to the fridge and pulled out a large bottle of milk. We get through so much that I was relieved to see that there was more than enough for the recipe - no need for a dash to the shop! I poured a substantial amount into the pan to join the syrup and butter. I hoped I'd have enough room for all the dried fruit; things were already looking a bit tight!
I collected the raisins and sultanas from the shelf. When Isaac saw the raisins he kept repeating the word over and over again. He must have remembered them from the snack packs I'd bought him a few months ago. He'd refused to eat the sweet treats and wanted to play with the boxes instead! As he had shown some interest, I placed a few raisins onto his tray before busying myself with finding and weighing the currants. When I turned back I was amazed to see him happily tucking into the raisins. Maybe seeing me use them had sparked his curiosity!
Chopped candied peel was the last fruit to be included. I am not a huge lover of candied peel. It would be playing only a small part in this cake so I doubted if I would even notice its existence! Last into the saucepan were some chopped walnuts. I had cheated a little and bought some already broken. This meant I could add them quickly and just break up the larger pieces with my fingers. I placed the fit to burst saucepan onto a low heat and waited for the butter to melt. Once this was achieved I turned up the heat very slightly and let it simmer gently for about five minutes. The smell wafting through the kitchen was delicious. It reminded me of Christmas pudding; it was hard to resist shoving a spoon into the pan and scoffing the lot!
Mary says to leave the piping hot mixture to cool a little. I wasn't quite sure how long that should be, it really was steaming hot! By now Isaac had moved onto his second course and was offering his own running commentary. Shame he hasn't yet learned not to talk with his mouth full – yoghurt and banana sprayed everywhere!!! He enjoyed watching me sift the flour and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. He kept saying “Woweeeeee”! I had a mad hunt for the bicarbonate of soda; I could find three open tubs of baking powder but that wasn't much use to me! Neil, who has the advantage of height, came along and whipped the bicarbonate of soda from the top shelf of the cupboard. He is very handy to have around!!!
I cracked a couple of eggs into the bowl of flour then gave the hot fruity mixture a stir. It had been cooling for fifteen minutes and, although it was still roasting hot, I decided to tip it into the mixing bowl. I just hoped the heat didn't cause the flour to go lumpy or the eggs to scramble. I beat the mixture and, thankfully, neither occurred. Phew!
The mixture was fairly wet, so I was able to tip it easily into the badly lined tin and then place it into the warm oven. It would take around an hour and a half to cook, so we all went into the living room and attempted to tidy up the vast number of toys before Isaac's bedtime. Hmmm! Somehow it managed to look decidedly worse by the time the little monkey went up for his bath!! I headed back into the kitchen to make dinner while Neil dealt with bedtime.
Just as I was about to dish up our evening meal I remembered that the cake was still merrily cooking in the other small oven. I whipped it out and it was perfectly cooked through but still lovely and moist. I left it to cool a little while I dished up our slightly burnt dinner! Quick as a flash I tipped out the cake and poured over some brandy. Mary says in her introduction that this cake does not require any maturing. I was left confused as, in the instructions, it says to pour over some of the brandy and then wrap it up and feed it at intervals. I wanted to test if it really is a quick, no maturing cake, so I poured over the total amount of brandy. Most of the brandy sloshed onto the worktop – so I don't think the cake received its fair share! I wrapped the cake in baking paper and foil; I would leave it overnight and see what it tasted like the following afternoon.
The next day I unwrapped the cake. It looked a lot flatter than I'd remembered! It felt rather sticky as I cut into it and looked very moist inside. Neil and I both agreed that it was packed full of delicious fruit and we could both taste the walnuts. The candied peel was in evidence in one or two mouthfuls but I found myself quite enjoying the zesty flavour! I am pleased to report that the cake worked well as a quick fruit cake. I personally don't feel that it required any further maturing. It was a squidgy moist fruit cake packed full of flavor and one to make again.
Apologies for the rubbish photo!!