I’m going to apologise now for the uncomfortably early Christmas post, even if it is all for a good cause — that of a rather delectable Christmas fruit cake recipe. I promise there are no baubles hanging over my laptop, or tinsel adorning the keyboard. I like Christmas, but I like it in December, where it belongs.
However, I almost feel like I’m having two Christmases this year. My first one was back in August, when I was writing Yule Be Sorry, Beaufort Scales’ second dragonish cozy mystery and sequel to Baking Bad. It was both completely wonderful and a little strange to have my head in a Yorkshire Dales winter while I was actually melting in a southern France summer. It was an enormous amount of fun, and I can’t wait to share the book with you at the end of the month!
However, there was a down side to writing a Christmas book in the summer. And that was writing about a lot — a lot — of Christmas treats while not wanting to turn the oven on to bake them.
Note that I mention nothing about not wanting to eat them, but you see the problem.
Anyhow. I’m back from Tonga. The weather has turned. Yule Be Sorry is almost ready to share with you, and dragons (and other creatures) everywhere are thinking of cosy places and festive treats to enjoy with a cuppa. Which means it was past time to dip into the recipes from the book.
So. Fruit cake. Christmas fruit cake, at that. It’s an odd beast. Dragons rather enjoy fruit cake, particularly dipped in eggnog, but maybe it’s something to do with their fire-breathing tastes. I mean, the cake itself is nice, but then everyone goes and plonks a load of weird plastic icing on top. You know. Marzipan. Ew. As far as I’m concerned, it’s fun for making things with, but so’s modelling clay. I’m not going to eat either of them.
Then there’s the issue of the wildly varying cake quality. Some of them are so thoroughly brandy-doused that you can get tipsy on the fumes alone. Others are thankfully (for me, at least — not everyone disagrees with alcoholic cake) booze-free, but are therefore so dry it takes your entire cup of tea to get them down, after which they lurk in the depths of your intestines for about three days, fermenting. Still others are loaded with candied fruit and glace cherries, including those weird green ones that look like they come out of the Springfield nuclear plant. I mean — does anyone actually eat those?
Not that I’m fussy or anything.
I like cake. I like dried fruit. Most of it, anyway. Let’s just be clear that the glories which are pineapple, mango and papaya should never be reduced to shrivelled, sugar-encrusted morsels. That’s just wrong. As wrong as nuclear green cherries. And I’m not even going to deign to mention the monstrosities that are banana chips.
What was I saying? Oh, yes — that I like most dried fruit. And like is too mild a term for my attitude to cake. Cake is life, after all. And every now and then I do stumble upon a fruit cake that is tender and moist and full of wintry spices, their flavour offering a counterpoint to the sweet-tart fruit rather than being overwhelmed by it. It’s the sort of cake that would mature well if left for a while, but rarely gets the chance. It might suit being served with a crumbly wedge of Wensleydale cheese for morning tea, or with a dollop of cream for an indulgent dessert.
And it is categorically not topped with marzipan.
Which is where Mick Carbert, SO, utterly amazing supporter and truly excellent pastry chef, comes in. He assured me that he had a recipe for just such a cake, and that, even better, it was easy to make and likely resistant to my habits of reckless substitution.
Please note that he did not say he’d make it for me. Although he did do all the mixing because my wrist’s in a support, so I guess you could call it a team effort.
Still. Pastry chef.
Marzipan-free & Dragon-Friendly Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 250mL sour cream
- 175g chopped dates
- 300g raisins
- 60g chopped glazed cherries (Me: Mick! Ew! You said this was nice! Mick: Fine. Use dried cranberries)
- 125g chopped walnuts
- 240g flour
- 115g butter
- 200g sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Grated rind of one orange
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
- Brandy (optional)
Preheat oven to 160C. Line a 23cm x 13cm loaf tin with baking paper.
Combine sour cream and baking soda; set aside.
Combine dried fruit and nuts, then toss with about ¼ cup of flour. Set aside. (Me: Mick, is this a way to find out how many bowls we own?)
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy, then mix in egg. Follow with vanilla, orange rind and finally the sour cream mix. Then add flour, salt and spices, stir to combine, and finally add the fruit and nuts.
Pour into prepared loaf tin and pop in the oven. Add a separate pan of water to the oven, either beneath or beside the loaf, because magic. (Mick: Not magic. Even cooking. Me: I know. Magic. Mick: shakes head.)
Bake for about an hour and a half, or until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to top up the magic water during baking.
Eat immediately or wrap tightly to store. If storing, you might want to sprinkle it with a bit of brandy to keep it moist and enhance the flavour.
How about you, lovely people? Do you like fruit cake? How does this measure up to your favourite recipe? And what are your favourite wintery treats? Let me know below!
If you haven’t read Baking Bad, Book One of the Beaufort Scales cozy mysteries, you can grab it via the links below. And you can also sign up for the newsletter in the sidebar or under the post to be the first to grab free ARC copies of Yule Be Sorry!