Keep CakePosted: March 8, 2014
Lovely recipe for you this week, for several reasons:
- First off, it’s EASY.
- It’s GORGEOUS to look at.
- It’s almost infinitely CUSTOMISABLE (is that a word!?)
- It’s UNUSUAL.
- It’s VERSATILE.
- It has EXCELLENT KEEPING QUALITIES
- Lastly, and possibly most importantly, it’s FAT-FREE.
Isn’t it stunning? A splendid fruit cake stuffed to the gills with beautiful chunks of whole fruits and nuts, barely held together by just a whisper of rich, dark, fatless sponge. Yes, none of your pale-and-interesting, pardon me while I have an attack of the vapours *flutters handkerchief daintily* fatless sponges here. The cakey bits here have richness and darkness coming from caramel-tasting, dark muscovado sugar, which provides a wonderful backdrop to the jewel-like chunks of whole fruit it holds.
Most cake recipes like this call for the fruit and nuts to be chopped into smaller pieces, to avoid big lumps clogging up the texture. The possible exception to this is Cherry Cake, which is notorious for letting the whole cherries slip through its rich interior to lie like sulky teenagers in a heap at the bottom (Shameless Plug: Foolproof Cherry Cake recipe in MY BOOK! Buy now to avoid [my] disappointment!). This is the exact opposite! The fruit and nuts are left whole and so are so big, buxom and unashamedly ample, that they don’t go anywhere. They naturally wedge themselves together so well, it’s the cakey bit that has to insinuate itself into whatever nooks and crannies remain. And because they are so tightly packed together, cutting a slice means you cut THROUGH the fruit, leaving exquisite cross-sections scattered through the slice, and practically every slice is different.
All fruit cakes get better with age, and this is no exception. Bottom line, properly wrapped, it will keep a month at room temperature, three months in the fridge or you can freeze it for up to six months. NB ‘properly wrapped’ involves a layer of parchment/greaseproof paper, a layer of foil and a cake tin with a lid. The sugar in the fruit will keep it moist.
You can vary the fruit to your own tastes, but I’d strongly recommend keeping the ‘big four’ of apricots, prunes, dates and figs, for their striking visual and taste contrast. I’ve used green raisins ( a new ‘find’ at my local supermarket) and cranberries, but crimson raisins or cherries could add an equally great splash of red, and substituting some of the walnut halves with whole pistachios or hazelnuts would look fabulous when cut through in slices.
This cake is delicious plain with a cup of tea/coffee, but for a ‘taste sensation’ serve some slices topped with a tasty cheese – vintage cheddar is my current favourite. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, I promise! 😀
10 whole dried figs
15 whole, pitted dates
15 whole, pitted prunes
20 whole, pitted dried apricots
300g walnut halves
60g dried cranberries
60g green raisins
3 large eggs
150g dark muscovado sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
100g plain flour
0.25tsp baking powder
0.25tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
- Grease and line a large loaf tin (24cm x 14cm x 7cm) with baking parchment.
- Mix all the fruit and nuts into a bowl. You might want to snip off the woody top of the figs.
- Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together until light and foamy – 5-10 minutes.
- Mix the remaining dry ingredients together.
- Gradually add the flour mix to the whisked egg mixture until thoroughly incorporated.
- Pour the combined mixture over the fruit and nuts and stir together until everything is coated with a layer of cake batter.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and press down firmly to ensure no gaps are left. It will almost fill the tin, but this is fine, as there’s very little rise – it all happens in the spaces between the fruit.
- Bake for 40 minutes, then turn the tin around 180° and bake for a further 20 minutes.
- Slide a sheet of foil over the top of the cake to prevent it becoming too dark, and bake for a final 20 minutes for a total of at least 70 minutes.
- The cake is baked when a toothpick comes out clean of cake mixture – don’t mistake, for example, moist apricot or prune flesh for uncooked cake batter.
- Allow the cooked cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and set aside on a wire rack to cool completely.