I’m a big kid at heart, I bloody love Christmas and any chance to get into the festive spirit, particularly when that spirit is soaked through a chunk of boozy fruit cake like this bad boy. Of course you can choose your preferred plonk level, I know some people prefer a moderate amount of merriment, whereas being a girl of extremes, I tend to lean toward the festive as all fuck end of the spectrum.
With that goal in mind I like to make mine a couple of months early, then give it a cheeky tickle up with an extra splishy splashy every week or so. I know it seems fucking obscene to be planning the Christmas menu in October it but has nothing to do with being organised and everything to do with maxing the level of merry the cake will deliver, because by the time Christmas day rolls around that fruity beauty will be bathed in enough of the old lady brandy it’ll be as good as a cocktail in cake form. And if the kids are running fucking feral after a day of hyped up post-Santa shenanigans just slip them a gobful and they’ll all be sleeping soundly in no time…. juuuust kidding. Mostly.
My mum is the ultimate cake baking bitch. She used to be a professional cake artist so when it comes to all matters cake related I (uncharacteristically) defer to her expertise. Well, that’s not entirely true, I used to just outsource that shit to her but now we live in different countries and she quite selfishly won’t leap on a plane to cater to my cake making demands I’ve had to learn to do it myself dammit. But she has taught me a few key tricks that will just about guarantee a kick arse cake, and one of them is steaming instead of baking. It’s pretty much impossible to overcook a cake by steaming it and you’ll always get a rich, moist result and it’s dead easy to do in a large stock pot, slow cooker or even electric frypan.
Get this stuff
1 kg mixed fruit
120mls brandy, sherry or a combination
2 1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp glycerine – optional but protects the cake from going mouldy at room temperature, otherwise you will need to store it in the fridge
200 grams butter
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 C of dark brown sugar – dark muscovado or coconut sugar both provide a great rich flavour
1/2 C dark chocolate chips – optional but no one likes a fucking grinch, it’s Christmas, add the damn chocolate
Optional blanched almonds to top if you’re not planning to ice your finished cake
Flour options – choose one of the below, not both or you’ll end up with a fruit brick!
2 C almond meal + 1/2 C arrowroot/ tapioca flour (my choice, works a bloody treat)
2 1/2 C buckwheat flour, spelt flour or standard flour – or a combo of your choice (buckwheat is a great gluten free option if you don’t want to use almond meal)
Do this with it
Find your biggest fuck off bowl, dump the fruit in it then pour in booze, add the allspice and glycerine and mix well. Refrigerate to soak overnight.
Grease and line an 8inch square or round cake tin.
Whiz the flour, butter, salt and baking soda in a food processor to make a fine crumb then add the sugar and process further to combine thoroughly. Then add the eggs and mix again to create a thick, creamy batter.
Pour into the fruit mixture then get ready to get down and dirty. Remove your rings, watch, false digits and get stuck in with your hands to mix it well. If you’re expecting an important phone call you can bet your arse it’ll come now while you’re up to your elbows in delicious fruit cake muck.
Transfer the mixture to the cake tin and smooth out with the back of a spoon. If you’re not planning to ice the finished cake then you can arrange blanched almonds on the top but place them very lightly or they’ll sink in as the cake cooks.
Cover the top firmly with tinfoil or a pot lid to create a seal on top. Place the tin into a large stockpot or saucepan with a simmer mat underneath (*see below) and add boiling water to reach about 1/3 of the way up the sides of the tin.
Place the lid on the pot, bring back to the boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer for about 6-7 hours. If you don’t have a simmer mat you’ll need to check the water level occasionally to ensure the pot doesn’t boil dry.
As with normal baking you can check after 6 hours by inserting a skewer into the centre to see if it comes out clean. The bonus of steaming is that it’s pretty much impossible to overcook the cake or dry it out so a bit of extra cooking time won’t do any harm.
The lower maintenance option is to use a slow cooker or electric frypan with the same water level 1/3 of the way up the side of the cake tin and leave it overnight or all day.
Any cake can be steamed this way, just double the cooking time advised for an oven.
Of course if you’re a traditionalist and would prefer to bake then go right ahead. Wrap greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin and cover the top with a double square and bake on the lower shelf of the oven at 140 degrees for about 4 1/2 – 4 3/4 hours.
Once cooked allow the cake to cool, remove it from the tin, bundle it up well in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight tin.
*A simmer mat is a nifty little tool that is perfect for this type of long, slow cooking. It helps to ensure even heat distribution and temperature control. You can pick one up for about $20 in kitchen stores or online. If you don’t have one however you can improvise by placing a saucer inside your saucepan, underneath the cake tin to keep it elevated. Just consult Mr Google for more info.