In our house, there is a ritual that happens around Christmas when my daughters come home, go through the cupboards, and accusingly wave bars of chocolate at me (given as Easter presents) with one square eaten. Then they give me more for Christmas and repeat the ritual at Easter.
I notoriously do not have a sweet tooth. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m hungry (or more likely bored) at work and there’s a decent biscuit going begging, I’ll probably eat it. But I can walk past a cake or bar of chocolate without the slightest pang in a way that I can never walk past an open bag of crisps. About six or seven times a year I think, “Oooh, I really fancy a bit of chocolate.” Then I eat one square and put it away again. Others in this house who are more in thrall to the gods of sweet things will finish said bar off if it’s left in a public place, then I won’t have it when I really want it. So I find more and more obscure places to hide things, often forgetting it altogether. I just found a bar I was given for Easter at the bottom of my bag of crochet, only because I finished the throw I was making.
Anyway all this wittering is leading to the point that I don’t bake a lot of cakes and, when I do, they’re usually for other people. But this is a cake I like a lot, and it’s very easy to make. It’s moist and full of fruit, with a touch of spice. It also lasts a long time getting arguably better by the day, so I can eat one slice and put it away for the next day. Assuming no-one else finds it first…
A word about the recipe: it is one of several that my mother got from the Jimmy Young Show on Radio 1. There was a daily recipe, heralded with the catchphrase jingle, “What’s the recipe today, Jim?” She would scribble them down while she was listening at work on any piece of paper she could find, so they tended to appear on, say, the back of an old envelope or a till receipt or pattern paper, transcribed in her own shorthand with missing bits that you had to guess at. So it’s altogether possible that the original recipe was nothing like this, but this version works.
Boiled fruit cake
- 4oz butter or hard margarine
- 6oz sugar (I use golden caster but we used to use ordinary granulated)
- 12oz mixed dried fruit (I use a combination of sultanas, raisins and currants)
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp mixed spice + 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 large eggs
- 8oz plain flour + 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt
Put the first five ingredients in a pan with a small mug of cold water. Heat gently till the butter is melted, then bring to the boil and boil for one minute. Switch the heat off and leave to cool for about 15 mins, stirring occasionally. Beat in the eggs and flour, and turn into a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin. Bake at 140C, Gas Mark 3 for an hour and a quarter, then test with a skewer. If it doesn’t comes out clean, bake for another 5-10 minutes then test again. Cool on a cooling rack. Will store well, wrapped in foil, for at least a week.
And this is how I eat it, with butter and cheese. I told you I don’t have a sweet tooth.