First off, I must admit to being a fruit cake fancier. I was a late starter, preferring instead the thick white icing, but firmly rejecting the tacky layer of yellow marzipan and the dense dark dry fruitcake - the corner piece of cake was much fought over. But now I pick off the thick white icing and reject the marzipan so as to enjoy the dense, hopefully not dry, fruitcake. I am still not a fan of the dry fruitcake, but I love a moist, fruity, slightly boozy fruitcake.
I am also quite a fan of Rose's Less Fruity Fruitcake from the Cake Bible. It is very rich, nicely fruity with not too many nuts. I am not a fan of nuts in my fruitcake - I think it is the stark contrast in texture between the plump fruits and the nuts that turn me off. So, given that the Fruitcake Wreath contains roughly equal proportions of nuts to fruit, I was almost reluctant to make it. But make it I did.
At Marie's prompting, to get our fruit marinating in the rum, I made a batch of candied citrus peel. It isn't a big deal to make your own - I followed the recipe in The Cooks Companion. I prefer this recipe over Rose's, primarily because you boil the rinds first to get rid of the bitterness in the pith. I think it maybe took about an hour from start to finish. I used a combination of orange, lemon and ruby grapefruit as my candied peel and combined this with uncoloured glace cherries, golden raisins, flame raisins and ruby raisins to marinate in the Captain Morgan Rum for just over a week.
Apart from the weird butter instructions that everyone has already mentioned, the cake came together pretty easily. The toasting of the nuts. Creaming (or whatever it was) the sugar and the butter in the mixer. I mixed in the flour, then fruit, then nuts by hand rather than the mixer. Glad I did, because by the time I got to the nuts, my bowl nearly runneth over.
The substitution of "exotic" raisins is something that I will continue to do in the future. The exponential impact in flavour was definitely noticeable even to my non discerning palate. I half filled two bundt tins and they took just under an hour to bake. Though it was a little tricky getting that thick cake mix perfectly flat so one of my cakes *may* be a little lopsided. And even though I oiled and floured my tins, one tin held tight to the cake and so I had to wodge that back together... hence no photo of a perfect specimen unlike the other Heavenly Cake Bakers.
But in the end, it didn't matter that it looked less than perfect - it tasted grand. All those nuts? Divine. As I ate it I thought, this isn't a fruit cake, it is more a nut cake with a touch of fruit, and I actually liked it. It is a pain in the neck to cut - I have no idea how Marie managed such a gorgeous slice. It is that messy slicing and crumbling nature that will result in it not becoming my Christmas cake of choice. I think you need to be able to eat your Christmas cake from your hand, not sure that you could do that with this cake very easily.
See that missing bit on the bottom left corner? That was a nut that wouldn't be sliced.
I don't think that this cake will become my replacement Christmas cake recipe, but it is a strong contender. It is light, not too sweet, the molasses from the dark muscovado provides some spice, the nuts definitely star and the fruit gives it depth and character. I will post again once I have sampled the second cake closer to Christmas.
I am looking forward to next weeks Carrot Cake - a cake without nuts!