Tomorrow my twin sister and I turn 28: another year older, another perfect excuse to get baking!
Every year I bake my sister a birthday cake, and this year she requested something a little different - she wanted a fruit cake, and not ANY fruit cake, a Mary Berry fruit cake.
I was excited to give this bake a try, as I've never attempted a fruit cake before - and now that the weather has turned, the leaves are falling, the evenings are dark and I'm starting to hear the C-word (Christmas, of course!) wherever I go, it seemed fitting to give it a whirl.
We decided to bake it together last weekend, as my mum and sister came up to stay for a lovely girlie weekend while my husband went away for a stag do. My sister also enjoys baking, but isn't very confident by herself in the kitchen (yet - I'm working on it!) So, the deal was:
"If I make it with you this weekend, and teach you how to do it, you have to make it again by yourself at home, and feed it once a week with brandy up until Christmas, when we will all devour it"
Challenge accepted by my sister we set to work:
The fruit cake is a dense fruit-heavy spiced cake which smells just like Christmas. It's really easy to make, and just takes a long, slow bake. It is the perfect cake to bake on a cold autumn weekend, when you want your house to be warm and smelling delicious.
We used Mary Berry's classic fruit cake recipe on the BBC Food website (full recipe here) which instructs you to soak your fruit in brandy over night:
A delicious mix of currants, sultanas, apricots, cherries, raisins, and candied peel steeping in brandy over night.
Once your fruit has soaked up the brandy over night, it is simply a case of lining a tin and mixing all of the ingredients together, followed by the steeped fruit. I used a 25cm round/7cm tall tin which worked perfectly (the recipe states to use a 23cm round/9 inch high tin, but this must be an typing error and they must mean 9 cm high rather than inches - haha I'd LOVE to see a 9 inch high cake tin!!)
The ingredients all mixed up before adding all of the brandied fruit mix
I know some people aren't keen on tasting cake batter because of the raw egg it contains, but I urge you to try this one, just a little spoonful - it is the best tasting cake batter I've ever eaten!
Once you've spooned the batter into the tin, decorate the top using whole blanched almonds and halved glace cherries. You need to push them lightly into the cake batter, and they will bake beautifully into the top of the cake.
All ready for the oven
The cake needs to be covered in a loose layer of baking paper, to stop it burning on the top, and baked at a low temperature (140) for 4 hours 15 mins - 4 hrs 45 mins (check after 4 hrs 15 mins as mine was perfectly cooked). The cake should be firm to touch and a skewer should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool for as long as you can manage in the tin - pierce with a skewer a few times over the top when it comes out of the oven and pour little splashes of brandy down the holes - the cake will drink it up like you wouldn't believe.
All baked, and waiting to be devoured by three hungry ladies!
pretty pattern baked into the top
Obviously, we couldn't wait to dive into this divine cake, so we only allowed it to cool for an hour and a half (it was still warm, and crumbly), if you leave it for longer the structure will become firmer and it shouldn't crumble as much. If you want to, you can bake the cake up to 3 months in advance of eating, store it wrapped in parchment paper, and feed it with a glug of brandy once a week right up until you eat it - this is what my sister is going to do for Christmas. I can't wait to taste our Christmas version - can it possibly be any better than this masterpiece? We will see.
Mmmmmm…..fruit cake perfection
The cake was absolutely immense! It is genuinely and confidently the BEST fruit cake I've ever eaten. It is rich, moist, spicy and has that warm hit of brandy which makes it so comforting.
The recipe states that it feeds 8 people- again, this HAS to be another typing error on the recipe - as if the cake fed 8 you would a) be sick at that size portion as its a huge cake and SO rich, and b) you'd be eating over 1000 calories a portion!! I think this cake easily serves 20 people a good sized portion, at 466 calories a slice - much more sensible (BBC Food take note!)
We'd taken 5.5 slices out of the cake at this point - there's no way on earth it serves 8 - haha!
A scrumptious slice of Christmassey-fruit-cake-heaven
I MUST recommend that you bake this cake yourself! It is SO worth it. Yes, it's a pricey cake to bake but it goes an awful long way, and will top any cake you could buy in the shops. A 16 cm fruit cake from Harrods costs nearly £20, and my cake was 25cm and cost just under £20 to bake - and I'm pretty confident this one tastes better.
It would also make a fab Christmas gift for any fruit-cake-lovers out there!
So, what are you waiting for? Get baking.