If ever I was to write a cookery book, there would be entire chapters devoted to fruit cakes and plum puddings.

Leafing through my tear-sheet  recipe collection, I seem to have amassed an inordinate amount of christmas cake and pudding recipes, to the exclusion of almost everything else. I find the look of rich, golden fruit cakes photographed in pre-christmas publications very seductive and cannot resist adding another to my stash. However, despite this virtual fruit cake catalogue, it is the reliable old standby that I opt for every time.

My preference is for a boiled rather than creamed (beating butter and sugar together) fruit cake because the initial bubbling of the fruit in the liquids produces a dark syrupy mix, full of fruity flavour – and it’s easier!

1kg mixed dried fruit
100g glace cherries, halved
250g butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup water
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbspn treacle
2 tspns grated orange rind
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/3 cup SR flour
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda

small packet of blanched almonds to decorate

  1. Pre-heat oven to 150 deg C.
  2. Grease and line a deep 19cm square cake tin with two layers of paper (brown paper or baking paper). Allow paper to extend above  the sides of the tin.
  3. Place fruit, butter, sugar, sherry and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 10 mins. Take off heat and cool.
  4. Stir eggs, treacle and rind into fruit mixture.
  5. Stir in sifted dry ingredients.
  6. Spread into prepared tin and top with blanched whole almonds.
  7. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Depending on the type of oven you have it could take longer, so check by testing with a skewer. If the skewer comes out of the middle of the cake dry it’s ready.
  8. Cool in the tin.

Not done yet. The next part is to wrap and store. Mine is currently swaddled in its original baking paper, a layer of foil and an aesthetically pleasing tea-towel. If you can, pop it away in the pantry for a month. By early December, you will be rewarded with a nicely matured seasonal cake to share with family, and friends who drop by for coffee.

Postscript: could not resist including an image of the divine Mildara Chestnut Teal Sherry bottle label – which is equally as seductive as the cake glossies!