English Dried Fruitcake

When I think of English Fruitcake, which is usually about this time of year, my imagination doesn't render the picture above.  Instead, I think of the endless round of weddings where the fruit and booze were almost as heavy in the cake as the almond paste icing and fondant was on the cake.  They were solid bricks.  The only way to make them edible to my young palate was to eat the fondant, throw away the almond paste and slather butter on the cake.  Quite a complicated process really.

Rose's version of Kate's version of the English Fruit Cake is at complete odds with the fruitcake of my youth.  That may have something to do with the advanced age of my palate and how much better acquainted it has become with alcohol.  So yes there is fruit, but not the traditional fly cemetery and yes there is alcohol, but rum, not brandy.  And this has apple.  Lots of fresh apple. I have never ever eaten fruit cake with diced apple.  And lots of pecans.  And bugger all dried fruit.  Bizarre.  I live in England now and I have never seen a fruit cake like this before.  Not that I have been searching - nowadays weddings are not furnished with bricks of fruitcake with fancy fondant, weddings are rounded out with cake people like to eat!

So, on to Rose's recipe.  I used bramley apple, which according to www.bramleyapples.co.uk they are the best cooking apples.  See, a snappy apple graph tells no lies.

I have to say, they leaked a lot of juice.  Nowadays, timing in the kitchen is somewhat protracted.  I like to think that I test the bounds of Rose's timings.  Things either have to be done right that second or else they are parked in the fridge until the next convenient time...  So, my apples may have sat for an hour or so...

It is a pretty simple mix, I added a little something because I soaked my fruit in rum for a week, instead of hot water for five minutes.   See point above about my adherence to timings.  Pecans were also toasted for longer than the requisite 7 minutes - probably 14, but no fatalities were recorded.  The hardest thing in this recipe was the dicing of the Bramley apples - 237 grams of them if memory serves, compared to 150 grams of mixed dried fruit.  I used a mix of cranberries and golden raisins - completely bloated on some Venezuelan Rum - which to some would be a crime against rum, but honestly turned out pretty tasty.

I have this special wooden cake "tin" which I have had for years.  Which I love.  Which has stored various bits of baking junk for the past 10 years, since the last time I baked a fruit cake in it.

It is brilliant because the wood insulates the cake during the long baking times.  Remember this sentence for further along this post...

And which I only remembered I should have soaked in water to get the boards to swell to a tighter fit after the mix started seeping out the gaps...  So easy peasy cakes can still end up in a mess if you have a memory live a sieve.

No matter, those seepy out bits were declared a hit by Isaac.  Weirdly the apple seemed to push out to the sides like some kind of phenomena of physics - centripetal forces at work?

And which I only remembered I should have soaked in water to get the boards to swell to a tighter fit after the mix started seeping out the gaps...  So easy peasy cakes can still end up in a mess if you have a memory live a sieve.
Leaking "tin" and strange apple physics aside, all these count for nought when you underbake the cake.  So that bit when I told you that the wood insulates the cake during long cooking times?  Well, a traditional fruit cake (non leaking of course) would take about four hours at a low temperature.  Rose's cake bakes for about forty minutes.  And it seemed done.  But I suspect my toothpick pierced only dried fruit and falsely made me pull this cake out about 7 minutes before it would have been perfectly cooked.  Bugger.

Which is exactly what I said when I peeled off the bottom baking paper...

Clag paste.  On the plus side, I know plenty of kids who ate that and lived to tell the tale, so it can't be all bad.  Figured the cake might still be okay... at the very least the edges.

And you know what, it was pretty good.  A little lacking in height - I blame that on the seepage and oversoaked dried fruit.  But the flavour was good.  I didn't dress it in rum, there was plenty coming through in the cranberries and raisins.   Only the very middle was slightly underdone - note made in the book to remind me for next time!  It was eaten in less than a week (highly unusual for a traditional fruitcake - those things used to last months, they were so disgusting!) and it didn't need any butter.

Cake is a funny thing in this house.  Of our three boys - Isaac, the eldest is like his Dad and will eat anything.  Patrick is more discerning and not much of a sweet tooth and Thomas will eat anything chocolate or cake that looks like chocolate cake.  This cake didn't look like chocolate cake.  He wouldn't eat it.  And Chris is grateful for anything that doesn't disappear out the door.

And to track the passage of time, the photo of the left was taken in November 2011 when the wee boys were about five months old and the photo on the right was taken a few weeks ago. Clockwise from the right is Isaac, Thomas and then Patrick.

Next week, The Ischler - they would call that a biscuit, where I am from.  I would call it a lot of bother.  Two almond biscuits sandwiched with apricot levkar and chocolate ganache.  Pure faff.  I know, because I baked them today.  It is going to take me a week to get over the faffing palaver of The Ischler to blog about it.  That will definitely be a post which tests the bounds of Rose's time instruction.


  1. Well Christmas is the time for faffing...

  2. Nicola, your post is hilarious! I remember those busy days of young mothering. I can't wait to read what you have to say about the Ischler!!

    1. P.S. If you have a chance, please visit me at www.artfuloven.com!

  3. hello Nicole and thank you for stopping by, I see that you have three lovely boys and I also have 3 boys and their wonderful too but they're big now and have their own children , your post is very nice " great job.

  4. Nicola.. I use the same rum! Talk about serendipity... Ok, Ok.. not because I'm from there, but Venezuelan Rum is pretty much the best... its the only one that I use.... and YOUR BOYS.. wow, they are growing up.. I still look at my stepson and wonder.. WHO IS THIS YOUNG MAN (they do make us feel the passage of time don't they?

  5. Bramley apples? I have to try that next time! Not sure if our supermarkets here carry them, but i'll be on the look out for them now! Your boys are so adorable!! And i LOVE your wooden tin!

  6. ב''ה

    You actually bake the cake in a wooden box?

    Thanks for explaining all the 'across the pond' vocabulary. Those Bramly apples have character.

    I can totally relate to only eating chocolate cake. :)

  7. Wait a minute - I thought I'd heard of everything, but I've never heard of baking a cake in a wooden box. What a neat idea! I've read about Bramly apples - never had the pleasure. Hope you'll stop by and visit my post.

    Patricia @ ButterYum


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