Stir-up Friday

Of course it isn’t really stir-up Friday, but we missed making the Christmas cake last Sunday, and I wanted a better name for today than Black Friday. What a horrible institution that is.

Here’s a WI recipe that makes a really good rich fruit cake for weddings or Christmas. Not too sweet, and really moist. If you make it in time it benefits from feeding every week or so with brandy, rum or whisky. Also, no food mixer required, just a large pan, wooden spoon, teaspoon and a set of scales.

A couple of tips:

Strong white bread flour is usually a no-no for cakes but it’s exactly what you want here. The gluten in the flour develops as you stir and results in a cake that cuts cleanly instead of crumbling.

Glycerine added with the eggs helps keep the cake moist. Glycerine is a humectant (attracts moisture).
I vary the fruit & nuts depending on what’s in the cupboard. Chopped crystallised ginger or those sweet dried cranberries are both good.

The quantities here make one large 10″ round cake, or two 8″ round, or an 8″ and two 6″, about 3″ deep.

Ingredients

  • 1kg raisins
  • 1kg sultanas
  • 200g cherries, chopped
  • 20g prunes, chopped
  • 200g dried apricots, chopped
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 300ml brandy, whisky or rum, plus extra for feeding the cake afterwards.
  • 350g butter, cut into small dice (melts more quickly)
  • 350g muscovado or molasses sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 2 tsp glycerine
  • 200g flaked almonds
  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
Directions
  • Arrange the oven shelves and put a large roasting dish on the floor of the oven. Boil the kettle and fill the roasting tin with hot water. Put the oven on to 150ºC
  • Line your tins and put them on a baking sheets to fit on one or two oven shelves, depending on the number and sizes of tins.
  • Take a big pan, the biggest you have as you’ll be using it to mix everything. 
  • Into the pan put the fruit, lemon zest and spirit.
  • Bring to the boil and lower the heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the fruit catching.
  • Stir the butter into the hot fruit with the sugar until everything has melted. Leave to cool.
  • Whisk the eggs in a jug with the almond essence and the glycerine.
  • Stir in the flour, spices, almonds and baking powder until well mixed.
  • Fill the lined tins, level and cover with baking paper and foil. Tear a little hole in the centre so steam can escape.
  • Bake until a skewer comes out clean, about 2 ½ hours for a 6″ cake, 3 hours for an 8″ and 4 hours for a 10″. Alternatively press the top with a finger, it will spring back when done. Do be careful not to over bake, the cake will be heavy and the flavour will spoil.
  • Leave to cool in the tins, then turn out (keeping the paper on). 
  • Poke holes n the top with a skewer and spoon more liquor over the top. Wrap in more baking paper, then foil, and keep until you’re ready to decorate.
Don’t let the foil come into contact with the cake, the acids in the cake will react with it.

Thanks for reading. Comments are welcome!

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