If you want to bake perfect, moist cakes that are bursting with flavor, here are some tips to follow:
- Choose good quality dried fruit and nuts: check that nuts are fresh without the taint of rancidity. For a fine texture in the cake, cut all fruit to the size of a sultana. Any combination of fruit can be used – it must be equal weight to that used in the recipe. Make sure the flavours are complementary. Soak fruit, if necessary, at least overnight. Cover fruit while soaking to prevent evaporation of liquid.
- Lining the tin: use brown paper, greaseproof paper or baking paper. It is best to use two layers.
- Butter: use unsalted butter.
- Eggs: large hen’s eggs or duck’s eggs can be used. Eggs are assumed to be 60 gms in weight for most recipes, so if using duck’s eggs, weigh them in their shell for the equivalent weight to hen’s eggs.
- Sugar: when white sugar is required, use caster sugar. For a darker colour, use brown or black sugar, golden syrup or treacle.
- Alcohol: medium sherry, dark rum, whisky, brandy or orange-flavoured liqueur are the usual flavours for fruit cakes. Brush 1-2 tablespoons over the cake immediately it is removed from the oven. Then cover the cake firmly with a double layer of aluminium foil while the cake is still hot and leave aside until completely cold. If you prefer not to use alcohol, substitute with unsweetened fruit juice.
- Tapping: after putting mixture in the tin and smoothing the surface, drop the tin three times to remove air bubbles.
- Cooking: times are difficult to estimate because we all use different ovens. If the cake is becoming too dark, lower the temperature and cover with some brown paper or foil. If using a convection oven, use low fan speed or no fan. Fruit cakes are best cooked slowly on low temperature.
- Storage: when the cake is completely cold, remove from the tin but leave the baking paper intact and wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap. Do not leave foil in contact with the cake as the alcohol will pit the foil. Then wrap the cake in an old clean towel and store in a cool, dark, dry place in the pantry. Once the cake has been cut, store in a well-sealed container. Do not store in the refrigerator; this may cause the sugars to crystallize.
Use these tips for a wonderful rich fruit cake for Christmas.