A few days ago, I suddenly had a huge craving for fruit cake. Maybe because the nights are coming in and every shop is dressed up for Christmas already. Maybe because I'm starting to get excited about going home and having Christmas with my family.
Or maybe just because our boiler has broken and we're in the middle of some cold, damp weather without any heating or hot water. Making this cake meant I could fill the house with comforting warm scents as the fruit mixture bubbled away on the stovetop, and that I could use the oven and get some warmth at least into the kitchen.
I really like this recipe - it's so unbelievably simple and all made in one big pan. It has great taste and doesn't go dry like a lot of fruit cakes. I like mine almost fudgy in the middle, but you can cook yours for a bit longer if you like. I'm also not a huge icing/marzipan/masses of glace fruits fan on fruit cakes, but feel free to go for it. Personally, I think a good fruit cake is glorious in its own right.
So if you don't fancy stirring up a cake this weekend, be safe in the knowledge that you could happily make this one in several weeks time and still have a gorgeous cake.
Quick and Easy Christmas Fruit Cake
(adapted from Nigella's Feast)
515g good quality mixed dried fruit - I used currants, raisins and sultanas
115g unsalted butter
165g dark muscavado sugar
165g chestnut puree
85ml brewed tea
juice and zest of an orange
zest of a lemon
2 large eggs, beaten
165g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Put the dried fruit, butter, sugar, puree, tea, orange juice and zests in a large saucepan. Bring gently to the boil, stirring regularly. Simmer for ten minutes then turn the heat off and let the mixture cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150C. Line a 6" tin (or large if you want a shallower cake) with two layers of baking parchment and then secure two layers of brown paper around the outside with some string - all of these should be twice as high as the tin.
After the 30 minutes is up, stir in the flour, baking powder, spices and beaten eggs. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, until the top is firm and slightly cracked and a tester comes out slightly sticky. Take the brown paper off and then cool in the tin.
(Around 20 slices)