Also affectionately known as the “Get Me Out of Betty Ford Fruitcake” I am brave enough to say this cake is better than my mother’s and grandmother’s (on both sides) fruitcakes. I absolutely love fruitcake, could it eat all year long and have yet to buy a cake from a retailer that is really good. It is not a cheap cake to bake but for a little bit more than what you’d pay to buy a small cake I do think it is worth baking yourself.
The cake started out as Nigella’s Chocolate Fruitcake but is now in its 3rd version. My first attraction to the recipe was the simplicity, the addition of coffee and cocoa which adds a wonderful depth to the cake as well as the relatively short resting period after baking which means you can still produce a fantastic cake in just over a week before Christmas.
I increased and varied the fruit and alcohol as I like the cake to be rich, dark, with masses of fruit and very moist. The original recipe did not call for soaking the fruit overnight but I definitely think it improves the flavours. It is so good that I do imagine anyone would want to escape the Betty Ford clinic to try the cake!
Tip: when it is winter and oranges are in season – zest a whole batch and store it in the freezer to have a summer stash of orange zest available.
- 350g dried prunes, chopped
- 250g prepacked dried fruit cake mix
- 125g raisins
- 125g sultanas
- 100g glace cherries
- 175g butter
- 175g brown sugar
- 175ml honey
- 100ml Tia Maria or coffee liqueur
- 50ml Van der Hum liqueur
- juice and zest of 2 oranges
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 2 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee
- pinch of salt
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 175g flour
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g mixed nuts of your choice, roughly chopped (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 100ml rum or brandy
- 50ml sherry
- brandy or rum for brushing during resting
- Place the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, orange juice and zest, Tia Maria, Van der Hum, mixed spice, cocoa, coffee and salt in a saucepan and slowly bring to a slow boil while stirring. Simmer for 10 minutes. Cool and let it stand overnight in the fridge. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap touching the mixture to avoid a skin forming.
- Remove the fruit from the fridge the next morning and let it come to room temperature for a couple of hours which will make it easier to mix with the other ingredients.
- Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees C. Line the sides and bottom of a 22cm loose bottom cake tin with baking paper. The sides of the tin needs to be about 7cm and use two strips of baking paper to line the sides – it is easier to work with than one long piece. Also make sure the paper is about 3cm higher than the edges of the tin.
- In a large bowl, add the eggs, flour, almonds, nuts (if used), baking powder, baking soda and salt to the fruit mixture and mix well. Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 2 hours until the cake is firm and the top is quite shiny. Start testing if the cake is cooked 15 minutes before 2 hours are up by inserting a sharp knife into the middle of the cake. Do not worry if there is a very slight bit of moist batter attached to the knife. If the cake is too uncooked return to the oven for another 15 minutes and test again. Cover the top with foil so that the cake does not become too dark on top.
- When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and pierce some holes with a sharp knife. Mix the brandy or rum and sherry and carefully pour it over the hot cake. Let the cake cool down complete and remove from the cake tin. Wrap tight in tinfoil and let it rest for 10 days in an airtight container. After 5 days of resting brush the cake liberally with some more brandy or rum, wrap again in tin foil and rest for the other 5 days.
Wine recommendation from Conrad Louw: I love the words luscious and decadent when it comes to describing food and wine, yet I use it sparingly and only when fitting. Well, this cake is decadent and a must bake. Pairing a drink with it, I thought had to be different to my favourite Potstill, and neither something cloyingly sweet such as a Port style wine. Yet, I wanted something sweet and Brandy-ish. That’s when I grabbed one of my bottles of Nectar de Provision NV from uniWines in the Breedekloof.
This is 100% Colombar, one of the widest planted white varieties in SA (after Chenin Blanc) but usually produces rather dull bland wines – hence it mostly being destined for distillation. The Colombar grapes were picked late and ripe, fortified with brandy (anything between 15.5 – 16.5%) then aged in a solera system. This has added to its complexity and luscious layers so it can stand next to the cake without the one overpowering the other. The solera obviously must have given the amongst others some orange peel notes on the nose and palate, further complimenting the ingredients of the cake.
Do yourself the favour – once you have baked the cake (and it’s a must) – start looking for a bottle of Nectar de Provision.