There’s no way I was going to call this cake what it is – boiled fruit cake! It’s a cake-making method which was popular in the past, and while it makes an excellent cake, the name doesn’t always draw favourable comments. But it is so easy to make! All you do is gently heat fruit, spices and wet ingredients in a saucepan, let them cool, then mix in dry ingredients
150g (about 5 oz) butter
75g (about 2½ oz) soft brown sugar
300g (10½ oz) sultanas
250g (8½ oz) raisins or currants
50g (1-2 oz) dried apricots, chopped
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Finely grated zest 1 lemon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
300ml (10½ fl oz) water
2 Tbsp sherry
150g (about 5 oz) Hi-grade flour
150g (about 5 oz) self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
2 medium (size 6) free-range eggs, well beaten
1 Preheat oven to 170°C (325°F) and position a shelf in the centre of the oven. Line a small deep cake tin 18cm square by 7cm deep (7” x about 2½”) with baking (parchment) paper.
2 Put butter, sugar, fruit, spices and lemon zest in a saucepan. Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in water and add to pan. Bring to a gentle boil, stirring often (let the butter melt before the mixture boils). Remove pan from heat and cool. IMPORTANT don’t add eggs until mixture is cool or they will scramble. See Recipe Notes. Add sherry.
3 Sift flours and salt together onto a piece of paper towel. Add eggs to cake mixture, then sift over flour and mix in.
4 Spoon into tin. Bake in the oven for 1¼ hours, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in tin, then turn out carefully, keeping baking paper on cake, and leave on a cake rack until completely cold. Wrap in baking paper and store in a cake tin.
I usually make this in an 18cm (7”) square cake tin, but I couldn’t find the tin, so I made it in an 18cm (7”) round tin, and the mixture only just fitted in. That’s interesting isn’t it? A square cake tin holds approximately 25% more cake batter than a similar sized round cake pan. Talk about continuing to learn. (I would have been better to make it in a 20cm/8” cake tin.)
Don’t leave out the sherry – it smells so gorgeous and adds a layer of flavour. The cake will keep quite happily wrapped in its baking paper in a tin for 5 days.
If you need to cool the fruit mixture quickly, leave it in the saucepan and cool in a sink half-filled with cold water and ice; stir often until cool.