I’ve been meaning to make one of these fruit cakes for weeks. My local supermarket has recently taken to stocking the crucial ingredient: crushed pineapple. Every time I’m in the tinned fruit section and I see these tins I think “I must get one of those, they don’t have them in here very often”. So now I have several tins sitting in the back of my cupboard, waiting to get used up.As far as I know this is a proper ‘farm house’ recipe. It was given to me by my sister-in-law’s, mother-in-law, a woman who spent her whole married life on Cumbrian farms. If you’re not familiar with farm house life, you may not realise what a big deal afternoon tea is. I don’t mean a delicate, cucumber sandwiches with the crusts-cut-off kind of afternoon tea. No, no, this is the kind of tea to put hairs on your chest and give you the energy to get back out among the ‘beasts’ (that’s Cumbrian for cows) whatever the weather.
Making this cake always takes me back to my final Easter vacation from university. I’m sure I must have had revision to do, but I don’t remember doing it. I had a completely idyllic four weeks on the edge of the Lake District, even the weather was great.
I went to stay with the Husband (when he was still just the Boyfriend) and together, we went to stay with his sister, at her farm. We had been drafted in to help with lambing time because she was in the early stages of pregnancy and her husband had to go into hospital for minor surgery. Her mother and father-in-law were also helping out and that is how I came to know Joyce and her cake. Joyce and Doug had fairly recently vacated the farm house in favour of a nice semi in town, so she still felt at home in the kitchen. Every afternoon she would lay out about five different kinds of cake or biscuit and make a cuppa for us all. She must have made a few of these fruit cakes in advance because there was often a good sized slab of it on offer. Later, when I moved to the area, I was able to call on her at home and nab the recipe. Joyce passed away a few years ago but now her cake is going to be immortalised on the World Wide Web. I wonder what she would have made of that?
Like my No Fail Muffins, the thing that makes this cake easy is that there is no creaming involved. You simply put all the ingredients except the eggs and flour into a large pan, heat gently, mixing all the time until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. At this stage you should have a pan full of glossy looking dried fruit.
If your mixture is very hot, allow it cool for a while before mixing in the flour and beaten eggs, otherwise you may end up with scrambled egg cake.
The final mixture is sloppier than a traditional fruit cake would be.
I baked mine in an eight inch square tin, lined with greaseproof paper. I think it would have worked out ok in a slightly bigger tin as the resulting cake was quite deep. I seem to remember getting good results by splitting the mixture between two (or maybe three) fairly decent size loaf tins. It does rise a little so be prepared.
So here are the ingredients:
1 432g can of crushed pineapple
12oz soft brown sugar
8oz butter or margarine
4-6oz of chopped cherries
1 1/2 lb of mixed fruit
1 tsp cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
1 lb self raising flour
Now, about the baking time etc. According to my recipe this cake needs the following baking times and temperatures:
1st hour – gas 2/300F/150C
1 1/2 to 2 hours -gas 1/2 /250F/120C
I made a big mistake when I cooked mine last night. I only gave it half an hour at the higher temperature. No wonder it was nowhere near cooked after the second stage. In the end, my cake had half an hour at 150C, followed by 2 hours and 20 minutes at 120C. Then, as it was approaching midnight, I left it in the oven after I switched it off, in the hope that the last bit of residual heat finish off the cooking. Luckily for me, it seemed to do the trick.
Oooh, it was nice with my morning coffee. With that much fruit in it, it’s almost healthy too. How many slices do you think I’d have to eat for it to count as one of five a day?