Have you ever wondered how to make an old fashioned Spiced Boiled fruit cake recipe from scratch at home but felt overwhelmed by the thought of it? How many times have you eaten dry or tasteless fruit cakes and wished for a moist fruit cake that was lightly spiced and had a tender crumb?
I must confess that growing up the traditional fruit cake recipe was my least favorite of all cakes to eat at any time of the year. Be it at weddings, Eid or Christmas festive afternoon teas.
The two versions I was most familiar with were my Aunty Gadija’s Blonde Fruit cake and another Aunty Gadija’s traditional loaf fruit cake. I loved the blonde version but more often than not had to choke down any other fruit cakes. If you don’t like traditional fruit cake why not try this Best Glazed Orange Bundt Cake, this Gluten free Orange and Almond Cake or this Carrot and Beetroot Cake instead?
If memory serves me, this recipe for a moist, dark, rich and beautifully spiced boiled fruit cake was passed to my mother from an old family friend. The first time I tasted this Spiced Boiled Fruit Cake recipe was on a vacation to the Wild Coast with my mum, her friend Aunty Joan and my cousin. The vacation was Aunty Joan’s gift to me for passing my senior year at high school. 🙂
Aunty Joan normally baked these fruit cakes for her friends at Christmas and had brought along half of the extra one for our snack time. The taste was delicious but the texture was a bit dry.
We received a fruit cake from Aunty Joan again for Eid that same year, but again it was really dry and crumbly. Not the type of cake you could serve with tea, but definitely perfect for dessert with lovely homemade custard.
One day during a random conversation about baking, my mother finally plucked up the courage to ask Aunty Joan how she made the fruit cake. She didn’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her the fruit cake was very dry and best eaten with custard. Aunty Joan explained her method in detail and then we realized what the problem was.
Aunty Joan’s oven was faulty so she never knew whether the cakes were cooked through. After about 45 minutes of baking she would remove the cake from the oven, cut it in two, then continue baking until she thought it was fully cooked.
When they made exactly the same recipe at our house and baked it in our oven, it turned out completely differently. It had morphed from a dry fruity tinder block to a moist, tender and spiced confection. My mother adapted the original recipe slightly by adding glaced (candied) and dried fruits as well as nuts. I adapted it further by adding mixed citrus peel and using less sugar and oil.
Top tips for making Spiced Boiled fruit cake at home
- Cook the fruit mixture the night before you want to bake the cake and allow it cool completely.
- If you are in a hot climate you can refrigerate the mixture after it cools but allow it to come back to room temperature before adding the other ingredients.
- Line the cake tins with parchment paper but do not grease it as there is sufficient butter in the batter.
- Allow the cake to cool in the tin for at least 30-45 minutes before removing it. I always use a springform cake tin as it ensures that I don’t accidentally drop the cake or break it when trying to flip it out onto a cooling rack.
Spiced Boiled fruit cake
- 500 grams butter lightly salted
- 320 grams sugar fine granulated, approximately 375 ml or 1 1/2 cups
- 500 grams dried fruit mix
- 60 ml mixed citrus peel
- 200 grams whole glace cherries divided (approximately 250 ml or 1 cup)
- 100 grams glace ginger approximately two thumb sized pieces, optional
- 100 grams glace figs approximately 3 medium figs, optional
- 100 grams walnuts approximately 310 ml or 1 1/4 cup
- 20 ml cinnamon powder approximately 4 teaspoons
- 20 ml ginger powder approximately 4 teaspoons
- 10 ml mixed spice powder approximately 2 teaspoons
- 500 ml water
- 10 ml baking soda / bicarbonate of soda approximately 2 level teaspoons
- 6 large eggs
- 60 ml vegetable oil
- 500 grams cake or fine sponge flour approximately 1000 ml or 4 cups lightly packed
- 20 ml baking powder approximately 4 teaspoons
One day before baking
In a deep pot add the butter, sugar, spices, water, baking soda and dried fruits.
Add 100 grams of the whole cherries and bring to the boil on a medium heat.
Allow to boil for 5-6 minutes until the rolling foaming stops, and take care that it does not boil over as the mixture is very hot and will scald.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then cover and leave to rest for at least 12 hours or overnight.
When ready to proceed with baking, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius or 160 fan / 350 F / Gas mark 4.
Add the eggs to the cooled fruit mixture, one at a time and mix thoroughly, then add the oil.
Lastly sift in the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly to combine.
Decant into cake tins that have been lined with parchment paper. No greasing is required.
Place in the lower shelf of the oven and bake for 5 mins before reducing the temperature to 170 degrees celcius or 150 fan / 325 F / Gas Mark 3, for another 65 - 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
The tray cake will bake for a shorter time so check it after 45 minutes.
The prep time does not include the 12 hours resting time of the boiled fruit mixture.
The original recipe used 500 grams self raising flour, but I substituted it with 500 grams cake flour or fine sponge flour, plus 20 ml baking powder. If you wish, you can use the self raising flour instead, but the texture may be different.
If using unsalted butter add up to 1/2 teaspoon salt to the batter.
I use Mixed Spice powder, and if that is not available, you may substitute with a similar quantity of pumpkin pie spice powder.
I have used different size pans when making these cakes. The batter is enough for two 20 cm round cakes or one 20 cm round cake and a rectangular sheet cake (23 x 30.5 x 3.5 cm approximately 9" x 12 1/4" x 1 1/4")
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