The origins of the traditional English Christmas cake seem to have been lost through time, but it’s known that early versions of the cake were made in the Middle Ages. This was probably more like a bread than the cake we know today with more fruit than normal added for the festive season.
Some theories say that the first fruit cakes were made for the Twelfth Night festivities in the Grand Houses of the day. A bean was put into one half of the cake and a pea in the other. As the guest arrived they were each given a slice of cake. The men from one half and the women from the other, the man who found the bean was named King of Revels for the evening and the Lady who found the pea was to be his queen. The other guests had to do fulfill the whims of the “king and queen” for the evening!
This is a really simple and inexpensive fruit cake without beans or peas! You can use whatever combination of dried fruit you like, or that you have in your store cupboard.
It makes a really good – not too rich cake that cuts well. Use it as an alternative for Christmas cake or Christmas pudding and if you really want the alcohol flavor pour a little over the top of the cake when it is completely cool.
Easy Fruit Cake
Ingredients – makes one 20-25cm cake
- 275g plain flour
- ½ mixed spice
- ¾ tsp baking powder (optional)
- 150g butter
- 15og soft brown sugar
- 275g dried fruit – figs, prunes, raisins, currants, sultanas, mixed peel etc.
- 3tbsp black treacle
- Cup milk
- Heat the oven to 180C or 350F, Gas 4.
- Sift the flour, spice and baking powder together into a bowl. Rub the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the sugar and mixed fruit and stir all the ingredients together until evenly mixed.
- Add the milk and with a warmed spoon – the black treacle. Mix well.
- Transfer the mixture to a greased 25 cm cake dish.
- The cake takes between one and a half and two hours to cook, near the end of the cooking time you may need to put some foil or greaseproof paper on the top to prevent it getting too brown.
- Turn the cake around while cooking and use a skewer to test if it is cooked all the way through.
- Put the baking dish on a cooling rack.
Soak the fruit in cold tea before making, even a few minutes makes it even moister.