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Author Notes: Inspired by a "Simmer & Stir Christmas Cake" on BBC Good Food, I finally, as an adult, have baked a fruitcake! I grew up eating fruitcakes—I didn't ever think I could make, one but all that's changed. I've made them many times since I discovered this recipe, which I’ve changed in a few ways: I use more liquid, I make a paste of part of my soaked fruit mixture to infuse the cake with more fruit flavor; sometimes, I use brown butter (talk about adding layers of nut and caramel flavor); I vary the nuts in the recipe beyond the recommended macadamias; and I finish off my studding the top with dried fruits and whole nuts, like a crown. The end result is rich, dense fruitcake, a gift of Christmases past and to come.
Don’t want any alcohol? Use tea, hibiscus infusion (zobo in Nigeria), ginger beer (the carbonated sort), malt drink etc. Use the same amount of liquid as in the recipe. With non-alcoholic liquids, I advise an overnight soak, not longer.
Allergic to eggs? Use chia seeds instead. Chia seeds gelatinize when soaked in water and lend a similar strength and binding power to some mixes. Combine 1 tablespoon of seeds soaked in 1/3 cup water for every egg.
Note: If you can't find "mixed spice," you can make your own: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/181605/mixed-spice —Kitchen Butterfly
Makes two 8-inch fruitcakes or 12 mini-bundt ones
- 150 milliliters brandy or other liquor
- 1 teaspoon ground mixed spice (see note, above)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 500 grams luxury dried fruit
- 100 grams candied citrus mixed peel
- 100 grams glacé cherries
- 75 grams dried apricots, chopped
- 75 grams dried figs, chopped
- 200 grams soft, dark brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
- 175 grams cold (brown/ beurre noisette) unsalted butter
- 100 grams blanched almonds, macadamias, or pecans
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 100 grams ground almonds
- 200 grams all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Optional: 3 tablespoons chocolate chips
- Optional: 3 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped (this will lend a gingerbread taste to the finished cake)
- Extra brandy for soaking cheesecloth to wrap the cake, and for feeding the cake later
- Extra dried fruit and nuts to decorate: whole blanched almonds, apricots, figs, cherries
- Make Fruit Paste: Combine the brandy or liquor, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and spices in a jar. Stir well; add the dried mixed fruit and mixed peel and leave to soak for a minimum of two hours and up to six weeks, covered and in a cold, dark place. When ready, divide the soaked fruit into two equal portions. In a food processor or blender, blitz one portion (reserving the liquid until the recipe's end) till the fruit is minced and the texture is a thick fruit paste, like mincemeat. This fruit puree is sticky and gooey and infuses the cake with true fruit flavor.
- "Simmer & Stir" Cake Mixture: In a large pot, combine the fruit paste, the other half of the soaked dried fruit and any remaining liquid, cherries, apricots, figs, sugar, butter, and zests and juice of the orange and lemon. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until the butter has melted, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, then simmer and stir for another 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for about half an hour. Pre-heat the oven to 150C/Gas 2/Fan 130C (265°F) and line two 8-inch cake tins with greaseproof or parchment paper, greasing before and after laying the paper at the bottom of the tins.
- Toast the whole nuts (blanched almonds, macadamias, or pecans) in a dry frying pan, tossing or stirring till brown. You could also roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes but you'll need to watch them as they burn easily. Once cool, roughly chop. When the mixture has cooled down, add the eggs, nuts and ground almonds. Mix well with a wooden spoon—a hand mixer will aerate the mixture, and leave it light coloured instead of the deep, dark color we seek.
- Sift the flour and baking powder into the pan. Combine gently until there are no traces of flour left. Fold in the chocolate chips and the candied ginger, if using. Finally, spoon the mixture into the prepared tins.
- Bake Fruitcakes: Place the tins in the center of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, then turn the heat down to 140C/Gas 1/Fan 120 deg C (285°F) and bake for another 1 hour or longer, till the cake is dark golden in appearance and firm to the touch. If the top darkens too much, cover the top of the cake with foil and let bake till ready. To check if the cake is done, insert a toothpick or a small knife into the center—if it comes out dry, without wet cake batter clinging to it, it is baked through.
- "Cure" & Store Fruitcakes: For those using brandy/other liqueurs, make holes all over the warm cake with a fine skewer and spoon or brush on the extra liquid over the holes until the cakes have absorbed it. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. When it's cool, remove from tin, peel off the lining paper, then wrap, first in baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then in aluminium foil for almost immediate consumption.
- When I want to keep longer, I wrap my cake in cheesecloth which I've completely soaked in brandy. Then I wrap in baking parchment or greaseproof paper and then in aluminium foil. I then store in an airtight container at room temperature; in the fridge, where it stays dry and crumbly; or in the deep freezer where it takes on moistness and a Christmas pudding texture—the choice, my friend is yours.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!