Brian grew up in a household run by his grandmother who had been a doctor’s housekeeper. There was always cake in that house; one on the table for tea, one in the tin and one being prepared. This cake is one he reckons his grandmother would have approved of and has become his best cake recipe.
Sometimes he stares at the shelves and says there is no cake and then he takes all the dried fruits out of the cupboards and sets to preparing the first part and I finish it off later. One of those joint efforts, that way he gets to choose exactly what goes in it; he avoids the ginger that I would put in and so on. I don’t know if this book is still in print but I’m sure you can get it secondhand – it’s a treasure house of useful advice, and good recipes and I am very grateful for this recipe.
Our favourite fruit cake recipe ever – adapted from Sainsbury The Cook’s Companion – 1991 – by Joseceline Dimbleby.
- Coarsely grated rind and juice of 2 large oranges
- Dark rum or water
- 175g (6oz) butter
- 175g (6oz) light brown or muscovado sugar
- 175g (6oz) ready to eat prunes (chopped)
- 50g (2oz) crystallized pineapple (chopped)
- 50g (2oz) glace cherries (chopped)
- 125g (4oz) sultanas or rasins
- 125g (4oz) currants
- 75g (30z) pecan pieces (walnuts in the original recipe, pecans being thin on the ground in 1991 in England)
- 250g (8oz) Swiss dark flour ( or a plain wholemeal flour)
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- ¾ teaspoon mixed spice
- 2 large eggs
- Scrub your oranges, zest the rind coarsely and squeeze the juice out.
- Measure the juice in a jug and bring it up to the 300 ml mark with rum or water.
- Warm the juice and the rum gently in a saucepan together with the butter and brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
- Stir in the zest and all the dried fruits. You can happily substitute other dried fruits if you have ones that you like better, I have made this on other occasions with crystallized ginger instead of pineapple, and with dried blueberries, Waitrose plum medley, all sorts of dried fruits, though I do think the prunes are fairly essential for the texture of the cake.
- Bring the whole lot to a gentle boil, cover and turn the temperature down and leave to simmer for fifteen minutes. Then remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool. You can leave it overnight if that is convenient.
- Before mixing the final batter, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, 350 degrees F. Grease a 18 cm (7 in) round deep cake tin or a 15 cm (6in) square deep one or similar. Line the base with a sheet of baking parchment.
- When you are ready to mix the cake, sieve the flour, baking powder and spices together and then stir the sieved ingredients into the cooled fruit mix with a big spoon. Mix it all up thoroughly. Finally lightly beat the eggs and mix them in to the mixture last of all.
- Pour the mixture into the lined tin, and bake in the oven for about an hour and a half. Turn the oven down or cover the top loosely with parchment if you feel it is getting too dark. It is done when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean with no sticky batter attached.
- Let the cake cool in the tin for a short while – about ten minutes. Then turn it out on a rack to cool. As one is always advised with fruit cakes, leave it for a few days before eating.
I have substituted ground hazelnuts for some of the flour one time which gave an extra delicious taste to this cake.
The orange juice and the rum compensate for the sweetness of the dried fruits and it is a soft and moist cake which is very forgiving of variations in cooking time. I don’t like super sweet cakes and this is to my mind the perfect balance between acidity and sugar.
When I was on Twitter earlier this year, I mentioned this cake and Carl said that it was always made for his birthday! So it’s one that has stood the test of time in many a home, not just ours.