Cousin Beryl’s Fruitcake

This cake is remarkably easy to make. It’s possible to make even if you can’t cook at all — and I can tell you this for sure because I personally made it before I could cook.

It’s also not really a fruitcake. Think of those dark heavy fruitcakes full of weird things like (ick) candied peel and (nasty) glace cherries, and even (horrors!) little candies, as heavy as a brick, as rich as Croesus and as dry as New Mexico. Then forget them. This is a light sweet mechanism for delivering excellent dried fruit. It might be better not to call it a fruitcake at all. If you love heavy dark fruitcake with brandy in, go and find a recipe for one by googling on “fruitcake, brandy, candied peel”.

This cake is as good as the dried fruit. Buy golden raisins and plump sultanas and big luscious dark raisins. If you like currants, buy currants — personally, I think currants don’t travel. In Greece they are wonderful, plump and tasty, and once, in Pireaus, before dawn, waiting for a boat I came around a corner to where there was a boat unloading currants, and the wonderful smell was solid enough to bite and it made me quite drunk. However, once exported they tend to become wizened and comparatively tasteless.

You need a 7 inch cake tin that’s deep, a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, an oven with reliable heat, some way to measure weight (a measuring cylinder or a weighing scale) and a pint measuring jug for measuring liquid. That’s all the equipment you need.

Pre-heat oven to 150, Gas 4, um, I can’t figure it out in F. (Why are the degrees in F the wrong size? It’s neither use nor ornament. If you want a scale with more degrees, why not have them half size, for ease of conversion? 350 is 180, so, um, 300? Or something?)

Line the deep tin with greaseproof paper (“baking parchment”). This is the most fiddly bit, and it can be avoided by using a loose-bottom tin, or by putting a large piece of greaseproof over the tin, pouring on the cakemix and trimming the paper after. Something roughly the size of the bottom of the tin is best.

Sift 8 ounces of flour into a bowl. You can use either patisserie (SR) flour or tour usage (plain) flour. This isn’t a cake that rises all that much. Add a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. (For fanatical measurers, that would be a quarter of a teaspoon.) Sift in four ounces of sugar — any sugar. White vanilla sugar is fine, soft brown sugar is fine, whatever you have. Add 14 ounces of excellent dried fruit, and stir with the wooden spoon until all the fruit is coated in flour and all the flour contains fruit.

In a pint jug, measure 4 fl ounces of liquid vegetable cooking oil, not olive oil, the blandest least tasty oil there is, cannola or blended vegetable. Add four fl ounces of milk. The more butterfat in the milk the better, in fact I often use cream. Add two eggs, and beat the glop together with a fork.

Pour the wet glop into the dry, and stir with the wooden spoon until everything is mixed together and you can’t see any flour any more. It won’t be very liquid. Pour and spoon into tin. Smooth a little.

Sprinkle the top of the cake with demarara sugar. The amount you get in a paper packet with coffee is just right. You can use ordinary sugar, in which case you want about two teaspoons, sprinkled carefully over the top of the cake.

Bake on the lower shelf of the cool oven for an hour and a half. You can tell it’s done when it starts to smell done. (Also known as the “That smells lovely. Oh my goodness, what time is it? What time did I put that cake in? I have no idea — well, it smells done.”) You can test with the clean knife method. If it’s starting to smell done and isn’t done, but a piece of greaseproof paper on the shelf above it in the oven, to prevent burning. This cake is supposed to be golden, not dark brown or, heaven forbid, black.

Leave to cool in the tin — this is important, as it will crumble a lot if removed when hot. When cool, remove from tin, peel off greaseproof paper, and eat. It keeps fairly well in a tin or a tupperware — not forever like a dark fruitcake, but for about a week.