I remember a comment by an old friend who said that he always takes a big fruit cake camping. When too tired to cook, or just in need of a something sweet, a big fruit cake hits the spot. This mighty fruit cake went camping with us in September and saw a lot of the outback. It keeps very well and took over a month to eat. Morning tea and night time pudding all in one easy travelling cake.
Now it’s time to make a Christmas cake, using this same recipe. The list of fruits need not be followed to the letter. I prefer to use up any fruits in the pantry: in this cake I substituted dried cranberries for glace` cherries. You can’t go wrong if the weights are all the same.
- 500g sultanas
- 375g raisins, coarsely chopped
- 300g mixed glace` cherries, coarsely chopped
- 300g currants
- 250ml (1 cup) brandy
- Melted butter, to grease
- 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 155g firmly packed brown sugar
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 115g (1/3 cup) breakfast marmalade
- 300g plain flour
- 75g self-raising flour
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- Blanched almonds, to decorate
- 80ml (1/3 cup) brandy, plus extra
Combine the sultanas, raisins, cherries, currants ( or other dried fruits on hand ) with the brandy in a very large glass ceramic bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside, stirring occasionally, for at least 6 hours to macerate.
Preheat oven to 150°C. Brush a round 22- 25cm (base measurement) cake pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Line the base and sides with 2 layers of non-stick baking paper to reach 6cm above the edge of the pan.
Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a bowl. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until combined (the mixture may curdle at this stage – this is due to the high proportion of eggs to butter: throw in a little of the measured flour which should stop this. It makes no difference to the result) Add the marmalade and beat until well combined. Add the combined flour and mixed spice, and fold until just combined. Stir in the sultana mixture. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth the surface. Tap the pan on the bench top to settle the mixture. Arrange the almonds over the top.
Wrap the outside of the pan with 3 layers of newspaper, rising slightly higher than the baking paper. Secure with kitchen string. This step is essential as it prevents the cake from drying out before it is cooked inside. A square tin is easier to wrap than a round one!
Bake, covering with foil if necessary to prevent overbrowning, for 3 1/2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Pour the extra brandy over the hot cake. Wrap the pan in a clean tea towel and set aside overnight to cool completely. Stores well, wrapped in two layers or more of foil, and store in a dark cupboard.
Blanch your own almonds; it’s much cheaper, assuming you have some almonds on hand. Boil a pot of water, add almonds to water for exactly one minute, drain in a strainer and rinse with cold water, then squeeze almonds from their skins.
The following link is a wonderful site for checking out basic cake making techniques. http://cakefrills.co.uk/home/tutorials/the-basics/basic-rules