Monday, May 26, 2014

Plain Fruit Cake - No Icing Required

Is it just me that is fed up with cupcakes surmounted by voluminous froths of icing? Sometimes I feel like the Grinch when I have yet another request for cupcakes at school and I know that mine will be the humble Cinderellas of the parade... in my day (hrmph, bah humbug and all that) they were called fairy cakes and had a thin glaze of glacĂ© icing and some hundreds and thousands sprinkles for decoration. If you were going all out for glamour you could add silver balls or Smarties. While today’s elaborate creations are undeniably beautiful, I find the rich, very sweet icing overwhelming and would rather just eat the cake underneath.

I’m finding myself more and more attracted by the plain, un-iced cakes of old-fashioned tea-times. Not hotel teas or birthday teas but family weekday ones. The kind of cake that keeps all week in a tin and that you eat in front of the fire with a mug of tea, after having polished off the crumpets dripping with butter. When I was a child and we visited my aunt, there used to be two or three cakes on the go at any one tea-time. Usually a fruit cake, perhaps a ginger one and some sort of light sponge. We’d come in from walking the dogs and tea would be taken along to the sitting room on a trolley to have by the fire: bread and butter first, then a piece of cake or two and then biscuits to fill in any corners. I don’t know how we managed it all, as there would be supper a couple of hours later. Maybe the plethora of cakes was just when family was visiting, but I’m pretty sure that my aunt always had a cake of some description on the go. Here we go with the nostalgic childhood memories, I must be getting old!

My mum’s old-fashioned ginger cake recipe is a good un-fancy cake that lasts for days, and after our Easter Simnel cake was finished I went looking for a plain fruit cake recipe that would also do as an everyday cake. This Dundee cake recipe fits the bill perfectly. It’s light with a citrus freshness, and improves with keeping a few days. I thought about adding some spices to the mix, but am glad I resisted as the orange and lemon zest is all the flavour you need.

Dundee Fruit Cake recipe

150g/5oz soft butter
150g/5oz caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
225g/8oz plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
450g/1lb fruit cake mix (sultanas, currants, candied peel)
2 tablespoons ground almonds
Grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
50g/2oz whole blanched almonds
2-3 tablespoons milk (if needed)

20cm/8 inch cake tine, greased and lined
Preheat oven to 150C/300F

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, a little at a time and beat in well.
Sift together flour and baking powder. Carefully fold it into the mixture.
The mixture should now be of a soft, dropping consistency. Add  a couple of tablespoons of milk if too stiff and dry.

Fold in the dried fruit, ground almonds and zest.
Spoon mixture into the lined cake tin and level with the back of a spoon.
Gently place the whole almonds in a circular pattern on the top of the mixture. Avoid pressing down, as the cake will rise up to meet them!

Bake until the centre is firm and springy and a skewer comes out clean, about 2 hours.
Cool in the tin, then store in an airtight container.

What about you? Do you have any favourite plain cake recipes to share?


  1. No, you are not the only one tired of mega-icing. As a matter of fact, I will never touch a piece of store-bought birthday cake because the icings are just a horrendous pile of sugary food coloring! I love coffee cakes, banana breads, crumb cakes ... things where the cake is the star. The only icing that I feel worthy of worship is the cream cheese frosting (homemade only, of course) that goes on carrot cakes. I ADORE cream cheese frosting. The way it combines with the spices in the carrot cake is just heavenly.

    That fruit cake you posted looks too pretty to cut into! Gorgeous.

    1. Glad it's not just me, Marcheline! Mmm haven't had a coffee cake in a long time, do you have a recipe for one? Will have to try your cream cheese frosting, the ones I've had on carrot cakes here are way too sickly sweet, but I can imagine that with slightly less sugar they'd be just the right thing to mingle with the spice.

    2. Hey Kit, I'm sorry I don't have a recipe for any coffee cakes, since Bear is diabetic we don't even keep sugar in the house, never mind bake anything sweet. Besides, we live in New York, where we have the best Italian and Greek bakeries anywhere, and delicious coffee cake and crumb cake are to be had on just about every corner.

      Actually, though, I think I do have a recipe for my mom's delicious shortbread... ah yes, here it is:

      12 tbsp salted butter, room temperature (very soft)
      1/2 cup powdered sugar

      Sift sugar into butter gradually, beating all the while.

      1 1/2 cups flour
      1/2 tsp salt

      Sift into butter mixture while beating. It will turn into large crumbs. Spray your shortbread mold lightly with butter flavor non-stick spray. Scoop the dough into the mold and use the flat of your palm to pat it down. Make sure to pat dough toward the edges of the mold so you don't get skinny edges. Round the edges, and make the surface very flat.

      Lightly cover the mold with an aluminum pie tin (or aluminum foil) and bake in a 325 degree F oven for 45 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for 5 more minutes, or until light golden brown around the edges.

      Let the mold sit and cool for 10 minutes before removing the shortbread. (Put a large plate over the mold and invert, so the shortbread doesn't have far to fall.) Make a pot of your favorite tea to enjoy with this delicious snack!

  2. Looks absolutely delicious, Kit! And perfect for this icy, rainy weather we're having. :-)

  3. You forgot that vintage favourite Seed Cake . My grandmother always had one on the go . Tasted horrible .
    I much preferred her sponges with lovely homemade raspberry jam .
    These days , I rarely bake but do love the look of your fruit cake . And know that , as a bonus , how wonderful it would make the whole house smell !


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!