Do you like Christmas fruit cake? Fruit cake is very alienating – you either love it or you hate it. Here in Australia, we have had an English baking heritage and that includes fruit cakes. In years gone by it was the only cake to have for a wedding, baptism or at Christmas. Even my Italian mother made a great fruit cake. Mum’s cake began with boiling of dried fruits, butter, sugar and spices which was left to cool before adding the flour, eggs and rum. I loved that smell of cooking fruits and spices and still do. Fruit cakes have lost favour in recent years but I still enjoy really good fruit cake moist with fruit that has been plumped in dark rum.
This Welsh Christmas cake from A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent, is a very traditional fruit cake. My version includes stem ginger in syrup and dark Jamaican rum to soak the fruits. Baking it in a ring pan ensures even baking and it doesn’t dry out on the edges in an effort to cook the centre. Fruit cake is not meant to be served in fat wedges rather a thin sliver with a little liqueur on the side is perfect, almost like a spoon sweet. Do try it any time of the year!
340g/12oz sultanas or golden raisins
280g/10oz dark raisins
1 cup dark Jamaican rum
Soak the dried fruit in the rum for about a week until all the rum is absorbed.
1 cup glace cherries
1/2 cup diced candied lemon peel
1/2 cup diced stem ginger in syrup
3/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup plain flour
After a week, mix the cherries, lemon peel, ginger almonds and flour together with the dried soaked fruit.
Now prepare the cake:
fine dry breadcrumbs for the pan
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup almond meal
250g/ 2 sticks salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
5 large eggs
1/4 cup dark Jamaican rum, a little extra to spoon over the cake
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Prepare a large angel food pan by coating with cooking spray and dusting with dried breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Sift the flour, salt and spices and set aside.
In a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth, add the sugar and then the syrup. Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well beating additions and scraping the bowl when necessary. Add in the rum and extracts. On low speed mix in the flour mixture and almonds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the fruits and almond mixture. Stir until well combined. Spoon into the prepared pan, taping the pan down on the kitchen bench to ensure there are no air pockets. Bake the cake for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until a skewer inserted comes out clean. My cake was cooked at 2 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven. I like to give the cake a little drink at this stage by spooning over a couple of tablespoons of rum while the cake is still warm. To keep the cake moist I like to wrap it in a clean cloth to cool slowly. When the cake is cool wrap in plastic wrap and keep in an airtight container. This cake will keep well but can be portioned and stored in the freezer.