Before I baked cakes for a living I really wasn’t a fruit cake fan at all! But isn’t funny how your tastes can change all of a sudden; I now love a good Christmas fruit cake. I love it with a bit of cheese on the side too…
The recipe I’m about to share isn’t one I have created myself mind, and I have no clue where I got it from, but it is my most favourite. If you do recognise this recipe then please do let me know where from as it would be great to know. At the moment it’s just on a piece of paper that has.. ahem… seen better days! Greasy finger-marks everywhere! But I still pull it out of its safe little spot in the back of my favourite recipe book every year…I always use this recipe for my fruit wedding cakes too.
It’s great for baking in advance and feeding until decorating time but, the best thing – it also works really well for last minute fruit cakes too and you can skip the alcohol part too if needed and it’s still delicious.
Preparation for baking a fruit cake can be pretty tedious but it is necessary and totally worth it. I double line my tins which means two circle parchment discs at the bottom, and two parchment strips around the inside edges. I also tie a damp towel around the tin with some string which helps to achieve an even bake and avoid crusty edges. Finally, a large tray of water in the bottom of your oven whilst baking will help with this too.
This recipe is for an 8″ round tin. It can be converted to bigger/smaller or even another shape. Please do ask if you struggle to work this out 🙂
The night before add all your fruit into a large bowl with the brandy and leave to soak. A minimum of 6 hours should do the trick.
A good fruit cake needs at least 6 weeks to mature and for the fruit to fully release all their yummy flavours. I tend to bake my Christmas cakes the beginning of November (2 months in advance), sometimes a little earlier. I remember my Granddad actually saying “a good fruit cake is like a fine wine” and he was right, a mature fruit cake is totally worth the effort and if you are going to spend all that cash on the ingredients, you may as well do it the best you can.
Storing is the easiest part. Simply wrap in cheesecloth – I use this one – Cheesecloth 180cm x 90cm and then keep in a large clear plastic food storage bag or wrap in lots of good quality cling film then store in a tin. It’s that simple. Once matured, or if you want to save a wedding fruit cake for a future christening cake you can double wrap and freeze too.
When I first started making fruit cakes I was completely confused by the whole ‘feed a fruit cake’ phrase. I was like “say what, feed a cake? How the heck do I do that?” So… whilst we are here, I’ll clear that little piece of info up too. Basically feeding is the part where you add alcohol (cherry brandy is my favourite choice) on a regular basis so the cake tastes extra yummy & moist when eaten. Try to buy the best quality alcohol you can afford, and it must be over 30% strength too.
1. Prick small holes into the top of the cake using a toothpick or thin skewer. Make sure the holes run deep into the cake but don’t go all the way through to the bottom
2. Spoon 2/3 teaspoons of your chosen tipple over the cake, allowing it to run down the holes and soak into the middle of the cake. Don’t overdo it or your cake will be overpowered by too much booze and you could also ruin the texture – the trick is to be patient!
3. Repeat this once a week (I set a reminder in my diary) and if you really want to be thorough then turn your cake the other way up and take turns to feed from the bottom and top.
PS: I used to worry a fruit cake would go mouldy but it doesn’t, the density and high sugar content of homemade fruitcakes prevent bacterial growth and spoilage. So in answer to the question “How long does a fruit cake keep for?” My answer would be “Until it’s all been eaten!” 🙂
If you’re looking for ideas on how to decorate your Christmas Cake, take a look at this Pinterest board where I’ve saved lots of different ideas…