240 grams of softened butter (no substitutes)
240 grams of sultanas
240 grams of raisins
240 grams of chopped dried apricots
120 grams of plain flour
120 grams of brown sugar
120 grams of ground almonds
30 grams of mixed peel
60 grams of chopped glacé cherries (optional)
A teaspoon of cocoa powder (optional)
60 grams of chopped almonds
4 x 60gm eggs
Zest & juice of one lemon
A flat teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves (more if you like, but don’t go overboard.)
Half a flat teaspoon of allspice and cardamom
Half a cup of port or sweet alcoholic substitute – not ‘dry, must be ‘sweet’, so if using a dry substitute, mix in a tablespoon of sugar or honey
Large pinch of salt
1/ Mix the port and the lemon juice. Use this to soak the sultanas and raisins overnight – not the apricots. Drain thoroughly. Reserve the leftover liquid after draining the fruit.
2/ In your biggest mixing bowl, mix the fruit, lemon zest, and the chopped nuts. This MUST be stirred thoroughly.
3/ Blend the sugar and the butter into a cream. Sugar MUST be mostly dissolved.
4/ Sift the flour, spices, cocoa and salt together, and then mix in the ground almonds. Put dry mixture into a jug.
5/ Beat the eggs well, but not into a stiff froth.
6/ Blend the butter cream and the eggs together. I find it best to add the eggs to the cream gradually.
7/ Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg/butter cream. You should not end up with a dough, it should be more like very thick paint or thickened cream. (The jug helps control the mixing and reduced the likelihood of lumps.) If the mixture is too thick, like dough, add the reserved juice from soaking the fruit a tablespoon at a time.
8/ Pour the mixture into the fruit and make sure every piece of fruit is coated in cake mix. Pour this mixture into a pan (buttered and floured) or into muffin cases for individual portions. A large cake should be slightly hollowed out in the middle to accommodate rising.
9/ This is a slow cook cake. Your oven should be already warmed to a moderate temperature, say 200 degrees Celsius. Put the cake in the pre-warmed for 10minutes, but then turn the temperature down to 150 degrees Celsius. After an hour of baking, drop the temperature to 125 degrees Celsius. Don’t panic if the cake appears to be bubbling and smoking, that is the alcohol evaporating and the butter boiling.
10/ After an hour and a half, test the cake by inserting a sharp knife or skewer into the centre. Because of the fruit, it will never come out clean, but when the cake is cooked there should be no liquid cake mixture. Because of the slow heat, you have reduced the risk of burning, but it is essential you don’t burn the cake, or it will caramelize, and the flavour and texture will be compromised.
11/ When it is cooked, it has to come out of the pan while still hot or the cake will ‘sweat’. Don’t panic if the bottom of the pan has a layer of oil … that is a remnant of the butter, and is a good indication that the cake is fully cooked.
12/ When the cake is completely cool, it can be decorated however you like. Alternatively, you can daily ‘feed’ the cake with a teaspoon of brandy, rum, or port for a week. Keep in a cool place in an airtight container. This cake needs time for the flavour to mature, so tastes best in the days after baking day. Should be eaten within two weeks of baking in summer weather, or will last up to a month in winter cold. It can be refrigerated or frozen, but the texture will be compromised. This cake can be microwaved.
Alternatives: an orange or two limes can be substituted for the lemon. You can use 240 grams of brown sugar for a sweeter cake. If you aren’t keen on preserved mixed peel, feel free to substitute fresh, but take care not to include any pith. Currants can be substituted for the apricots, but they will need to be soaked overnight, and you will need more alcohol and juice accordingly. The ground almonds can be replaced with flour, and the chopped nuts left out, for those with nut allergies.