My dear blogging friend Ivy, together with Val of More than Burnt Toast and Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen, are hosting an event called Time To Be Thankful. For this event, we are asked to make something festive, and to post about it, together with relating why we are thankful, by 19 November 2008.
I just started my Christmas baking last weekend. I have a mad project to make small Christmas boxes full of goodies for my friends and colleagues, and the fruit cake is where I started because it needs to be made at least a month ahead so that it can mature. I am going to slice it up into individual pieces so each recipient of a box receives a piece of fruit cake.
This is a rich, traditional fruit cake packed with booze and fruit from the 1968 classic, The Margaret Fulton Cookbook. My Mum received this book for her 21st birthday, and when Margaret's daughter, Suzanne Gibbs, issued an updated and revised version around 4 years ago, it became a "must have" on my recipe book list. (In fact, it is the first proper recipe book I bought - my how far we've come since then.)
I am thankful for the fact that Christmas is coming around, and that I am lucky enough to born in a place and time where I know that I will be able to shower and in turn be showered by love, affection and good food by family and friends. I am also thankful for my Mum, who has given me such wonderful memories of the Christmas traditions like making puddings and fruit cakes (even though we hated it as kids :) ) that I in turn am able to practise, long after Mum herself started buying hers.
There is something very warm and comforting about doing things that you know your Mum and her mother before her did, and provides a link to your past that can never be severed. Unfortunately, I never knew my maternal grandmother, but I understand that she was an awesome cook who used to work in a cafe before her marriage. She used to have a book of handwritten recipes that she used at the cafe which, sadly, was lent to someone and never returned. I like to think that my interest in baking (discovered only a few years ago!!) was influenced by my maternal grandmother as well as my Mum.
To make Margaret's fruit cake, you will need:
125g glace cherries (I am deliberately skipping the mixed peel :p)
60g glace apricots
2 slices glace pineapple
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons sherry
250g butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
zest from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
extra almonds to decorate the top of the cake (optional)
1 tablespoon brandy (extra)
Plenty of time and elbow grease!!
For the fruit - Preheat your oven to 120 degrees Celsius. Wash the raisins and sultanas, and pat dry. Spread the fruit out on paper-lined baking trays and cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, then remove the fruit from the oven and cool completely. (I am not sure why these steps were necessary - any ideas anyone??)
Chop the cooled raisins, and place them in a bowl with the sultanas. Dice the glace fruit and add thesse to the other fruit. Sprinkle the fruit with the brandy and sherry, then cover the bowl with clingfilm followed by a towel, and leave to steep overnight.
Next day, preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celisus. Grease and line a deep 20cm square cake tin. (I double lined mine, the first layer being brown paper and the second being parchment paper. Mum used to do this, and a quick telephone call confirmed that the purpose of this is to ensure that the sides of the cake don't burn during the long, slow cooking process. I also greased both layers of paper.)
Beat the butter and brown sugar with the lemon zest until light and creamy. Add the syrup and marmalade and beat well. Combine one of the eggs with one tabelspoon of the plain flour. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and adding the egg/flour mix last.
Sift the dry ingredients together, then stir them mixture into the cake batter alternately with the fruit and nuts. (This is where that time at the gym (ha, as if I go to the gym!) will come in handy - the batter is very thick and heavy.)
Place the cake batter into the prepared cake tin, and if decorating the top of the cake with almonds, place these at strategic intervals on top of the raw cake:
Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 3 1/2 - 4 hours (mine took somewhere in the middle). Remove the cooked cake from the oven, and immediately sprinkle with the tablespoon of extra brandy.
Remove the cake from the tin, leaving the paper intact. Wrap it in a teatowel and leave it to sit on the bench until cool.
Once the cake is cool, remove it from the paper, and wrap it in clingfilm followed by alfoil. Store it in a cool place or the fridge for one to six months before serving.
Thanks to Ivy, Val and Giz for hosting Time To Be Thankful. You can find the inspiring roundup here.