Monday, 9 December 2013

Christmas Part I - My Mother's Fruitcake

Making my Mother's fruitcake is like having her in the kitchen with me.  She made these fruitcakes every year and gave many as gifts. While I was growing up I always helped her.  My  main job was shelling nuts.  Thankfully, I no longer have to do that. A trip to Holland and Barrett and I am all set with shelled nuts and candied fruit.
When I moved to England, she used to send me one every year. I must have asked her for the recipe several times.  Eventually, I got a note to say that that was the fourth time she had copied the recipe out.  After that, I kept the recipe in a safe place and started making the cakes myself.  It was difficult to get the candied pineapple and one year I bought candied peel and used that as a substitute. It didn't really work well. The taste of citrus was overpowering.  It would have been better to leave it out.  But that's how we learn.

Here is the last copy of the recipe she sent me.

My dear ...
I just finished baking our Christmas fruit cakes, so before I put it away and forget about it,   I thought it might be a god idea to copy the recipe for you.  Here it is and may you enjoy baking as I have for the past forty nine years.

White Fruit Cake
3/4 lb butter
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
5 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb white raisins
2 oz or more glace cherries
1/4 lb orange peel
1/4 lb candied pineapple
1 teaspoon almond flavouring
1 - 1 1/2 lb shelled nuts, (walnuts and pecans)
1/2 cup sherry, wine or fruit juice

Cream butter, eggs and sugar.  Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add liquids, a little more or less if batter is too thick. Add almond flavouring.
Have fruits (washed) and nuts in a large bowl. Pour batter over and mix well with a large wooden spoon or your hands. Line your tins with brown paper and grease them well. Bake in a slow oven (250F) for 2 hours. Keep checking them to make sure they don't burn after the first hour. They need to be nice and dry to taste good.  After they cool overnight, wrap them in cheesecloth soaked in sherry, wine or fruit juice.
Good luck and happy cake baking.
Love, Mother

Over the years, I have made changes to the recipe.  I add more fruit and nuts and include Brazil nuts (bashed up in a plastic bag) almonds and hazel nuts.  I line the pans with baking parchment. This year I made half the recipe.  I got two 1 pound cakes and one 1/2 pound cake.  I baked them at 150 C.  The small one took one hour (my fan oven cooks very fast). The larger ones took one and a half hours.

The fruit in a very large bowl and the its at the side.

The fruit.

The bowl with fruit and nuts.

The batter. It looks like a small amount, but the fruit is the star of this cake.

The greased and lined tins.

Adding the batter to the fruit and nuts.

The batter in the tins.  Ready to bake.

The cakes when they come out of the oven. They look over done, but they are delicious. 

You could put paper over them for the last 1/2 hour to prevent burning.

Wrapping the cake and soaking it with wine.

Peeking at the cake.

The finished cake. Lovely with a cup of tea.

1 comment:

  1. They look delicious! And reading your mother's recipe with its comments and sidenotes was beautiful.

    My granny made a fruitcake (iced perfectly with royal icing and handmade decorations) and a ginger cake every Christmas and would bring them with her when coming to stay with my family for Christmas week - with armfuls of foliage she and my grandfather had grown on their farm, which they'd use to help decorate the house. Their arrival was one of the best things about Christmas. Suddenly there was sherry in the mid-afternoon (although not for small me), log fires burning all day, carols on the radio and endless cooking, chopping, preparing, ready for the big day. The ginger cake was deep, dark, and the gingerest cake I've ever eaten. One year she decided that as I and my cousin Joe were the only ones who preferred the ginger cake, it wasn't worth making both. I was too young to think of asking for the recipe, and it has now disappeared along with all those answers to other questions I wish I'd asked in time. No other ginger cake has ever compared ... Still looking.