Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fruit Cake

The recipe here is for a boiled fruit cake which to modern ears sounds decidedly dire, somehow nasty. In part perhaps because fruit cake is going out of fashion - it is all baked froth with garish icing at one end of the market and fresh cream and french butter at the other. It's a shame really - a good fruit cake is a joy. It is a properly substantial cake - bringing mine into work on the bus it seemed to weigh a tonne - with a spiced crumb wrapped around fatttened fruits, perhaps with the addition of a little heat from glacé ginger or a sour tang from a dollop of marmalade early in the mix. Each cake is different but it's not a temperamental thing to make. You can boil the first set of ingredients and leave it with a lid on overnight till you have time next day to add eggs and flour and it will still cook to perfection. Once finished it will last for ages, dark and moist and inviting in an airtight tin, needing only a cup of something hot to bring a little pleasure to the day.

This recipe comes from my grandmother Dodie via my mother and, for all intents and purposes, I have been eating it all my life. The handing on of this recipe, its history, adds to its specialness. It's important to keep the best of the old fashioned stuff - the continuity enriches today in a way that something new simply doesn't.

Dodie’s Boiled Fruit Cake

500g packet mixed fruit
Plus any little extras eg ginger, citrus peel, marmalade etc
1 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
125 g (4oz) butter
1 tspn mixed spice
½ tspn ground ginger
1 tspn bicarb of soda
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
1 cup self raising flour

Put all the ingredients down to the ground ginger into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add bicarb and stir while it fizzes and foams. Turn off the heat, put the lid on the pan and leave it to cool.

When the cake mixture is cold, first stir in the eggs and then the flour.

Cook at 150F/ gas 3 for about an hour or so…perhaps a little longer (says my mother). It is cooked when a skewer into the centre comes out clean.

Pour a little sherry over the hot cake. Leave it to cool in the cake pan it was cooked in which you cover with foil and then a bread board or tea towel. This makes for a nice moist cake.

I covered it with lemon and coconut icing because that's the way I have always eaten it but the icing is definitely optional.

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