Hello chaps, apologies for my absence these last few weeks. The time has just disappeared in a puff of 40-hour working week. Such fun.
Anyhoo, I haven’t slowed down in the kitchen at all during this last month, despite the barren wastelands of the old blogeroo. No; far from it.
I’ve played with celeriac for the first time, found a turkey leg in Morrisons the size of my actual head, been enlightened by an encounter with maple butter, made several delicious curries, supervised a slow-cooked Moroccan lamb stew which ended up richer than Jeff Bezos, crafted at least 3 types of pie, and discovered that I am actually a Scottish granny hiding in a 23-year-old woman’s body. This revelation is due in part to an aggressive desire to feed anyone who crosses my path (cats, Lewis, mice, colleagues, the poltergeist which haunts my stairwell), and in part due to my newly discovered love for making fruitcake.
Fruitcake, as well as being a gender-neutral term of affectionate derision, is one of those cakes left by the wayside a little. It’s not as popular as its energetic lemon-drizzle cousin, or as family-friendly as an enormous chocolate cake covered in rich ganache. It’s not as sweet as carrot cake, doesn’t bake quickly like a sponge, and it’d be too rich if you covered it in jam and cream like a scone. In the cake world, it could be mistaken for a bit of a plain Jane. But fruitcake has one amazing trick up its raisin*.
It is infinitely, reliably, and excellently portable.
You can take fruitcake anywhere. You can wrap the dense brick of soaked fruit and spiced in-betweeny-bits in clingfilm or foil, and fling it into outer space with a fission-powered trebuchet. It’ll be absolutely fine. You can put it in the bottom of a rucksack which you inevitably leave on public transport. It’ll be there when, three days later, you initiate a sheepish conversation with the lost property woman who’ll hand you your bag with an eye-roll so hard she might lose a contact lens. Not only will the fruitcake still be robustly intact – staring back up at you as you fish around for your electronics – it’ll be all the better for it.
Yes, a second brownie point to fruitcake is won by its nearly indefinite shelf-life. It tastes great on the day it’s made of course, but like teenagers and good whisky, could really do with being left along to mature for a bit before you see it again.
You can leave this particular fruitcake in a hole for a few days before eating it, or even up to a month or so if you occasionally douse it with a spirit of your choice (my poltergeist is always happy to assist). The last time I made this cake, I’d transported it around 20km on foot in total and shared with a bunch of pals on the side of a loch, around 3 days after I’d made it. And despite being packed with fun stuff, it’s a lot less expensive than it tastes.
If you’d like to be similarly enlightened by the plain-Jane joys of a good fruitcake, have a stupidly easy recipe.
· A loaf tin
· One of those 400g value bags of dried mixed fruit and peel
· A couple of earl-grey teabags if you’re going to do some soakage. Yes, normal tea is fine.
· 120ml of light-coloured oil (sunflower, vegetable – not olive oil)
· 3 eggs
· 50ml of milk (disnae matter if it’s from a cow or not)
· 125g of soft dark brown sugar (fine, use plain white sugar if you don’t have brown, but add more spices)
· 250g of either self-raising flour or plain flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder added
· Half a teaspoon of ground cloves
· A teaspoon of cinnamon
· A pinch of salt
· A grating of fresh, or half a tsp of ground nutmeg
· Orange zest (optional but highly pleasant).
Make about 500ml of very strong earl-grey tea and pour it over the dried mixed fruit. You can add a dram or two here if you’re into that, or alternatively skip the tea and glug over half a bottle of Lidl amaretto instead. God, I’m classy. Leave it to steep overnight or while you’re at work.
When you want to make the cake, put the oven to 170 degrees and line a large loaf tin with greaseproof paper or one of those handy liner things.
Put all the ingredients except the fruit into a large bowl and give them a good mix until properly combined. Drain the fruit, reserving any leftover alcohol to mix with some golden syrup and spread over the cake later. Add in the fruit and mix until evenly distributed. Slop into the cake tin and bake for around an hour, checking on it after 45 minutes. A skewer inserted into the very middle should come out clean. If it’s looking quite brown on the top but still gooey underneath, put some tin-foil over it and pop it back in for 15 or so minutes.
While it’s still warm, poke holes in in and brush it with some golden syrup if you like. This makes a nice sweet and soft crust after a few days. Alternatively, if you’re not transporting this and have just made it because you’re deathly bored or wanted to experiment with something other than hard drugs, you can melt a little marmalade (yes, I’m actually a Scottish granny) or apricot jam in the microwave and pour it over to make a nice sticky glaze.
This is brilliant thickly sliced and spread with butter or you can just suck on the whole thing like you’re teething again. Up to you.
*doctors hate it.