Monday, August 9, 2010

What's wrong with fruit cake?

I was recently told that I "must be the only person in the world under 40 who actually likes fruit cake". While this may be a bit of an exaggeration, it does seem that fruit cake is quite unpopular with those of my generation and younger.

I'm not sure why so many people automatically grimace at the thought of fruit cake - there are, of course, those sad individuals who dislike dried fruit in any form, and some shy away from particular ingredients - glacé cherries are the usual culprit. Others will tolerate the cake, but eat it mostly because they enjoy the icing.

Still, "I hate fruit cake" seems to me an overly sweeping statement, stemming from the belief that all fruit cakes taste the same. There are millions of fruit cake recipes out there, hugely varied in ingredients and flavour. Use a recipe without glacé cherries, for example, and you'll already have a few converts.

While I've come across a few unpleasant ones (usually bakery bought), I'm usually very big on fruit cake - luckily, since I've got a whole chapter of them to make! I'd been a little hampered in this by a lack of correct cake tins, but, having finally acquired a deep, 23cm round tin, I was able to have a go at ginger ale fruit cake (p58).

The ginger ale in this cake is used to soak the fruit overnight, so I combined the sultanas, raisins, currants, dates and mixed peel in a bowl, and poured over the ginger ale. This was to be put in "a warm place" overnight - not easy to find in the middle of winter. I settled for wrapping the bowl in a towel and leaving it in a cupboard.

The next day, I set about making the cake. The first task was to line the tin with two layers of brown paper and one of baking paper. This was a little fiddly, but I got there without too much of a struggle. As for the rest, it was simply a matter of getting out my mixer to cream butter and sugar, and beat in the eggs, then stirring through the dry ingredients and fruit.

I spooned the mixture into my lined tin, and put it in the oven at 140 for 3 hours. At the end of this time, the cake was looking nice and brown on top, and a skewer, poked into the center of the cake, came out clean. I took the cake out, and left it to cool completely before taking it out of the tin.

This was a trying wait - I was dying to try my cake and it took hours to cool completely. Eventually, I judged that it was cold, removed it from the tin, and immediately cut myself a slice.

The cake was very moist - almost on the verge of being soggy - and packed with fruit. I liked the somewhat unusual addition of dates, though I felt it could have done with slightly fewer currants: I've got nothing against currants, but they do tend to dominate the flavour of a fruit cake. The ginger ale gives no real flavour to the cake - its entire purpose seems to be in softening the fruit. A handful of chopped crystallised ginger would add a little ginger flavour, if that's what you're looking for in this cake.

All in all, it's a pretty good fruit cake. Not the best I've ever eaten, but not bad either. It's got plenty of flavour, and, unlike a non-fruit cake, will keep well enough that I can easily eat the lot before it goes bad (no, not in one sitting!). The round tin is a novelty for me - I'm used to fruit cakes being square - but you have to be wary of cutting yourself too big a slice!


  1. Yum! I love fruit cake too :) I made this recipe for christmas one year. Seeing as I can't get ginger ale/beer here (very sad for me - someone needs to send me a case of bundaberg), I make the boiled sultana cake and add in other fruit to make it more like a christmas cake. I've never wrestled with the icing deal though - do you attempt the almond/royal icing layers? I'll have to keep reading to find out ;)

  2. If you get really desperate, there are lots of recipes for homemade ginger beer out there :)

    I don't usually bother with icing. I know lots of people think that's the best part, but I grew up eating uniced fruit cake (even Christmas cake) and I never feel like anything's missing.


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