My Nanna and Mum and other women of their era, didn't save Fruit Cake for Christmas and Weddings.
Back in their day, when ingredients like eggs, sugar and butter were scarce or impossible to obtain, they had to improvise, and dried fruit found it's way into many a cake or bun for sweetness and texture.
This fabulous cake has enjoyed a bit of a revival in recent times due to it's simplicity, wonderful robust flavour, and the ability to 'keep you going' for longer than a chocolate muffin!
I make these up in loaf pans, 8-10 at a time, and freeze them. They make a wonderful impromptu gift with a packet of Twinings teabags and some scented sugar like Cinnamon or Lemon Zest to either stir through your tea, or sprinkle on the warmed cake.
They're also a great quick afternoon tea for unexpected guests, a wonderful dessert with custard or cream, and covered with fondant and tied with double satin ribbon and a Christmas themed decoration, yes, a gorgeous Christmas gift too.
Here's Nannas recipe, revised by me many times over the years, in just four sentences...
Depression Era Three Ingredient Fruit Cake
Soak 600gms (about 10ozs) of mixed dried fruit in 600mls (2 1/4 cups) of liquid....try milky tea, herbal tea like Raspberry or a favourite blend like French Earl Grey with 3-4 tablespoons of cream added to the brew for richness, and leave overnight in the refrigerator. Add 2 cups of self raising flour, pour into lined muffin pans, cake tins or a slab tin, and bake in a 180C (375F) preheated oven for 90 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cake in there for another 30 minutes, if you have an older oven. If fan forced, the cake is done when it's springy in the middle when touched.
You may need to adjust the timing for your oven's peculiarities, or for smaller or larger cakes. A dozen of these in muffin tins will take 25-35 minutes, and a loaf pan about 35-50 minutes.
Here's my mix of roughly chopped dates, dried blueberries and cranberries, and plump raisins, soaking in Chai Tea...smells luscious!
And here is the same cake mixture, baked as small square muffin sized cakes. One batch was enough to make 12 small cakes and one small loaf.
I wrap these well and freeze until required, or decorate as the occasion dictates and gift them, wrapped in cellophane with huge ribbons on top.
It helps to use fruit that will 'plump' nicely with soaking, so raisins in preference to currants, dates cut into slivers are wonderful and add a delicious caramel flavour, and blueberries and cranberries are out of this world. Of course this still works with good old fashioned commercial mixed fruit too!
These are so chock-a-block full of fruit, that you feel good eating them, and they are scrumptious with custard, cream or icecream.
On the weekend, I served the miniature individual ones to our lunch guests. I combined equal parts of pineapple juice and ginger syrup (we are fortunate to have a yummy Ginger cordial here so that's what I used), warmed it, warmed the cakes in the microwave and poked holes in them with a skewer, and poured the syrup over. After they'd soaked the syrup up, they were served with pouring cream, and they were scrumptious!
The other wonderful thing about these is that they are more fruit than 'cake', and I use gluten free flour. So we don't get that feeling of lead in the tummy after eating them. They are deliciously moist and light.
Honestly, try this one. You'll love it, I promise!