Fruitcakes in Britain date back as far as Saxon times. Drying fruits and nuts was the best and perhaps only way to ensure a good supply during the harsh months of winter.
But many ancient European cultures have different variations of such sweetened cakes but like mince pies, the fruitcake came into shape as a Christmas- New Year meal during the middle ages when an array of spices and vast amounts of honey were added to make this sticky, dense and rich cake.
This delicacy was so well loved that for a while was the staple wedding cake!
In Victorian times citrus peels and liberal amounts of brandy were added to intensify the flavour and moisten the cake.
Although European immigrants introduced it to America, it still holds a strong nostalgic connotation and links to the motherlands of the old world.
Although many claim one must bake a fruitcake at least two months before Christmas, I’ll give you my speedy recipe that you can with just one day ahead, an elegant Victorian decoration with almonds will make a stunning centrepiece or you can go for a more colourful version with pecans and shiny glace cherries.
You will need:
- 1 strong cup of earl grey to soak the dried fruit overnight:
- 350 gr currants
- 225 gr sultanas (or prunes)
- 225 gr raisins (or dates)
- 175 gr chopped dried apricots
- 75 gr chopped candied peel
- 175 gr glacé cherries
- 4 tbsp brandy, or apple juice.
- 275 gr white flour
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground mixed spice
- 400 gr softened butter
- 400 g muscovado sugar
- 3 eggs
- 65 g chopped almonds
- 1 tbsp black treacle (or maple syrup/molasses/ agave syrup)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- Either: Sliced almonds, glace cherries and/or pecans.
- Warm apricot jam
Drain the remaining tea of the soaked fruits, chop and add the cherries and peel, and the rest of the wet ingredients and mix.
Sift and gradually add the flour mixing well.
Pre-heat the oven to 140°C
Grease a 23 cm deep round cake tin and line with baking parchment.
Spoon the mixture into the mould and spread out evenly with the back of the spoon.
Cover the top of the cake loosely with a double a layer of baking parchment and bake for 1 hour then remove the parchment on top and continue baking for other 45 minutes or until the cake feels firm. Leave to cool in the tin then, when the cake is almost cold, turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.
To decorate brush generously with warm apricot jam and either use sliced almonds or a mix of nuts and cherries to create a festive pattern.
This recipe is embarrassingly easy, so there’s really no excuse to spend money on a dry and vile fruitcake when you can make this gorgeous, rich and moist beauty!