Today I delivered my first ever fruit cake. I know. I was as surprised as you when I realised I hadn't ever made a fruit cake before.
I didn't really know where to begin for a recipe. There seems to be some quite a lot of dull recipes that basically just mix fruit and a load of flour - no wonder they are "heavy". Remarkably the recipes are incredibly similar. There also seemed to be some variation between a fruit cake and a Christmas cake, with the latter having a much more interesting set of ingredients. (Why can't you have a "Christmas" fruit cake any time of the year?) I stumbled upon a recipe for ale cake and since I wanted a cake that had more than a hint of booze (it was for my friend's dad as a thank-you for some no longer used bake-ware) this is what I went with.
It turned out very well. The fruit was incredibly juicy, (as well they should be having absorbed half a pint of ale!) leading to a very moist cake. It had a complexity and deepness to it that was remarkable. The topping was a sweet hit that served to break up the homogeneity of the cake very well. Ultimately it could be described as very satisfying!
Recipe for Ale Cake (adapted from Women's hour)
For the cake:
75g citrus peel
250ml strong English ale
225g dark brown muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle
225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
Zest of one lemon
For the icing:
75ml evaporated milk
3oz caster sugar
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1oz dessicated coconut
2oz mixed fruit and nuts, chopped
1. In a large bowl, steep the fruits and the citrus peel in the ale, leaving it for at least 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
2. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, beat in the treacle and then slowly add the eggs
3. Fold in the flour and spice, until thoroughly mixed together.
4. Stir in the steeped fruits
5. Pile the mixture into a greased and lined 8" round cake tin.
6. Bake in the centre of the oven for one hour at 160°C (the original recipe states 180°C but this is too high and leads to the cake getting far too brown too quickly). Reduce the temperature to 120°C for a further 2 hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly. Leave to cool.
7. For the icing mix the milk, egg yolk, sugar, butter and vanilla extract in a small pan over a low heat. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens, approx. 12 mins.
8. Remove from the heat.
9. Beat in the fruit and nuts and coconut. Continue until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a spreading consistency.
10. Slather all over the cool cake and allow to cool completely.
NB. The cake can be stored before being iced. To store wrap first in baking paper then in foil and place in an air-tight container.