The Easiest Fruit Cake. Ever. (Last minute Xmas Cake)

The pieces of ginger are clearly seen in the clices.
The easiest fruit cake ever.

The easiest fruit cake ever.

Yes, yes, I know, you don’t like fruit cake. Nothing personal, but…it’s just not your thing.

You’re aware that it’s a tradition, but you really just think you’ll pass this time — Okay?

Nope.

Not happening.

You have to try this cake.  If I had a dollar for every time someone who detested fruit cake then told me how much they ♥LURVED♥ this one, I’d have enough to make many more of them.

This group of people includes The Boy, who was *adamant* that I do a post on it!

Yum!

Yum!

I must confess that I don’t like your regular, traditional dark fruit cake either. It does nothing for me at all.

In fact, when my 19 year old self was copying the original handwritten recipe from my grandmother’s notes sometime last century, I wondered if I was going nuts. I mean, seriously… why would I want to make a fruit cake? However, in the interest of preserving things for posterity, and thinking my mother might like one sometime, I kept on with it.

Many years later, I decided to update it a bit. I find sultanas travel best in small quantities, but whole cakes full of them are rather uninteresting.

Note: I know this recipe doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a budget dish, the fruit is not inexpensive (about $10), but we should all have at least one special occasion card up our sleeves and this is a special occasion dish.

Master Cake decorator, I am not.

Master Cake decorator, I am not.

I changed the dried fruit in the recipe to a fruit medley product I found in the supermarket that contained dried apples, peaches, pears and apricots – alongside a small quantity of sultanas.

Angas Park Fruit Medley rocks.

Angas Park Fruit Medley rocks.

The weight (375g) wasn’t quite up to the 500g that was called for, so I decided to make it up with something a little bit special.

I am a ginger fiend. I love the stuff. So, when I saw 125g packs of glacé ginger from our friends at Buderim, I knew that had to go in as well.

Glace ginger

Glace ginger

It did and it was a triumph.

I’ve even served this up to our Governor-General and his wife, and can proudly boast it has Vice-Regal approval. So there.

If you don’t like ginger (wha..?) feel free to substitute glacé cherries instead. If you must.

Also, there is no alcohol in this recipe. If you absolutely must have booze, you may wish to use it to soak your dried fruit, I give no guarantees as to the results having never tried it this way.

This is the easiest, simplest cake to make. It takes about 10 mins of preparation – total.

It will disappear in about the same amount of time (once you get past all the “but I don’t like fruit cake…” stuff).

Don’t bother getting your electric beaters out for it, they’ll struggle. Instead, arm the nearest, largest child with a wooden spoon and get them to mix it. Say it’s a tradition. Invoke Santa and good and bad lists if you must.

Do this even if it’s August and you’re serving it that evening.

You will need a large bowl and a mug. The mug is important.

The mug.

The mug.

This is the mug I have always used for this recipe. It doesn’t matter which mug you use (you can’t have mine, sorry), but try to use the same one throughout. It’s a matter of proportions, you see.

Empty your 500g of dried fruit into a large bowl and then add a mug of hot, black tea. Leave overnight. Only soak your dried fruit, any glacé fruit will be added later.

Soak your fruit overnight

Soak your fruit overnight

It will plump up and start looking luscious. My fridge was rather full when I did this part, so I used a smaller bowl for it.

The next day, cut your glacé fruit into quite large chunks (or leave whole) and mix through the soaked fruit.

Add your glaced fruit to your soaked

Add your glaced fruit to your soaked

I’ve discovered over the years that small pieces just disappear into the background and that – strangely! – some people don’t like ginger.

Leaving the pieces on the large side means that you get a definite zing from them and it’s easy to pick them out if they aren’t wanted.

The pieces of ginger are clearly seen in the clices.

The pieces of ginger are clearly seen in the slices.

Now, lightly beat your egg and mix it through the fruit. It’s much easier to do this now than after adding the dry ingredients, trust me on this.

Working in your large bowl now, sift in two mugs of self-raising flour and then add one mug of brown sugar. Stir.

Add your fruit to your dry ingredients.

Add your fruit to your dry ingredients.

This will be a stiff mix, there may be enough liquid left in your fruit to make a batter, or there may not. It depends on ambient humidity and the relative positions of the stars…

Should your mix be too dry, simply add splashes of plain old water until it all comes together. It will look something like this.

The mixed batter.

The mixed batter.

Using a spatula, scrape into a lined cake tin of whatever shape you fancy. I usually bake this cake in a silicon, Christmas tree-shaped cake mould, simply because I have one.

Deck the halls...

Deck the halls…

Bake at 160ºC or 325ºF for 2 hours, turning the pan at the halfway point.

Allow to cool in the tin for 30 minutes, before turning out to finish cooling on a rack.

I cut off the “muffin top” to create a flat base. The removed piece then becomes the Cook’s treat. Ahem. It’s the only bit I let myself eat of this or I would be in deep trouble, both calorically and blood sugar-wise. The cake then gets turned over for presentation.

Slice off the muffin top for easy preparation. Use a serrated knife.

Slice off the muffin top for easy preparation. Use a serrated knife.

It’s the underside of this ‘crusty bit’ that you’ve seen in the pictures of slices above.

Decorate and serve.

Brace yourself for all the “I don’t like fruitcake” claims.

You have been warned.

Easy Fruit Cake

  • Servings: 15
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

500g dried fruit (or a mix of dried fruit and glacé fruit). Use whatever mix of soft, dried fruit you like, just make sure that the pieces are all around the same size.

1 mug hot black tea

1 large egg

2 mugs self raising flour

1 packed mug brown sugar

Method

Soak dried fruit in hot tea overnight.

Heat oven to 160ºC or 325ºF.

Cut glacé fruit into large chunks and mix through soaked fruit.

Beat the egg with a fork and mix through the fruit.

In a large bowl sift Self Raising Flour and add in brown sugar, breaking up any lumps.

Add the fruit, stirring with a wooden spoon or large spatula until a stiff batter forms. If the mix is too dry and flour remains unincorporated, add splashes of cold water until it is all mixed in.

Place batter in a prepared tin (a regular loaf or square pan will work well) and bake for 2 hours in the top third of the oven.

Turn the tin at the 1 hour mark.

Cake is baked when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 30 mins before turning out.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

This cake freezes well, either whole or in slices for a lunch box treat.

All gone...

All gone…

Hidden Treasure Muffins

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

So, you’ve made yourself some Dulce de Leche, or even some Lemon Curd – now what?

Make these.

Simple, tasty, made from things you’re likely to have already and hiding a sweet(er) surprise, what’s not to love about these morsels?

You now you want one.

You know you want one.

A batch or two of muffins mixed up on a Sunday afternoon and stored in an air-tight container can provide you with a week’s worth of school/work lunch treats. That can save you quite a bit of money over the medium to longer term, especially if you provide your own beverage as well.

They taste better than most mass-produced cakes (there’s a certain floury taste to things made from a premix) and you get to look mysterious when people beg you to tell them where you bought them…

Get picky. Eat only the best, and that usually means things made from scratch – it doesn’t mean things that are too difficult to make yourself. I promise.

These particular muffins make use of things you’ve already learned how to make here: dulce de leche and/or lemon curd.

Before I start to guide you through it, though, just a quiet word. Muffins are sensitive souls. They need a gentle touch – one that will let them know they are loved and then leave them alone…

In other words, don’t overmix them!

As soon as all the flour is incorporated, stop. Just stop. That is all.

Treat them gently, and you too could have a platter that looks like this.

A veritable treasure trove.

A veritable treasure trove.

If you do happen to overmix them, it simply means your muffins won’t rise as much and will be slightly denser in texture.

This is not a tragedy.

This is a reason to try again and see if you can improve your results.

Shall we begin?

Preheat your oven to Moderately Hot.

Start by sifting your Self Raising flour and baking soda together into a large mixing bowl.

Add your brown sugar, but be careful to pack it into your measuring cup first! When you tip it into the mixing bowl it will look like those sand castles you used to make with your bucket at the beach.

This is a brown sugar sandcastle.

This is a brown sugar sandcastle.

Mash it up with your spatula or wooden spoon to get rid of lumps and stir into the flour.

How are you doing so far?

Believe it or not — you’re nearly done!

Melt your butter. This can be done in a small saucepan over a low heat on the stove, or in a microwave.

I use a pyrex jug for mine and zap it at 50% for a minute and then repeat until it’s liquid. Then I stir the buttermilk into the milk.

Mix your butter and buttermilk together.

Mix your butter and buttermilk together.

If you can’t find buttermilk anywhere, then a 50/50 mix of plain yoghurt and milk will also work; alternatively add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of milk and wait 5 minutes.

Break your egg into your butter mixture and whisk well with a fork.

Then make the ever-necessary well in your flour and pour the liquid into it.

Add the wet to the dry

Add the wet to the dry

Then stir – quickly and gently. Try stirring around the outside and then slicing underneath. It’s hard to describe and I think I may need to post a video at some stage.

In the meantime…just don’t beat the life out of it.

When all the ingredients are just combined. Stop. This is not a cake batter, it will not be smooth and liquid. It will look lumpy – like this.

Stop when it is just mixed together.

Stop when it is just mixed together.

Place some muffin cases into your muffin tray. You could just grease the cups, but the paper cases make eating your snacks a much cleaner experience, means they don’t stick together when stored and also make it easier to pack them for lunches.

If you don’t own a muffin tray (I’ve had mine for nearly 20 years, add it to your list.) then use a flat baking sheet or pizza tray and place double thickness muffin cases on top and close together. You could even do this in a cake tin, if you wished.

Dollop spoonfuls of the mix into the bottom of your muffin cups. Don’t spread or smooth the batter, just leave it as it falls.

Fill the bottom of your muffin cups.

Fill the bottom of your muffin cups.

Now for the fun bit. Deploy your fillings. I used a teaspoonful of dulce de leche per muffin in this example. It’s quite sweet and I thought that would be sufficient. You may use more, of course!

I would use a tablespoon of Lemon Curd for this purpose, but it’s still up to you (and how much you have to hand!)

It helps to fill a coffee cup with boiling water and dip your metal spoon into it before dipping it into your cold filling. The heat will cut through the cold caramel and help it to slip nicely off into the cups. There is no need to dry your spoon between dunkings.

Use a cup of hot water to help spoon out your filling.

Use a cup of hot water to help spoon out your filling.

Now cover your caramel with the rest of the muffin mix.

Hide the treasure.

Hide the treasure.

Pop into your hot oven to bake for 20 mins, while you wash up ;-).

If your oven is not fan-forced, you may wish to rotate the tray at the half-way point to ensure even browning.

When done, test by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the center of the thickest muffin. If it comes out clean of raw batter, it’s cooked. Just remember you may hit caramel or lemon curd too!

Allow to cool in the tray for 10-20 mins and then move to a cake rack to cool completely. Set up a guard if you wish to keep them for lunches during the week to come…

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Allow to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Muffins: If you tire of using your Dulce de Leche or Lemon Butter in these, and the budget permits, then try sifting a ¼cup of cocoa in with your flour and using a cup of Nutella to fill with.

You’re welcome.

 

Hidden Treasure Muffins

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients:

2½ cups self raising flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (Baking Soda)

½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed

125g butter, melted

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk

2/3 cup Dulce de Leche or Lemon Curd

Method:

Grease a 12 hole muffin pan, or line with paper cases. (I find this makes transporting them a lot easier.)

Heat your oven to Moderately Hot – 200°C or 400°F.

Sift flour and bicarb into a large bowl.

Add brown sugar and break up any lumps as you stir them together.

In a pyrex measuring jug (for ease) heat your butter in a microwave for 1 minute at 50% power. Repeat until melted. (This step can be done in a small saucepan over low heat if a microwave is not available.)

Add butter milk to jug and whisk together, then add eggs. Mix liquid thoroughly.

Make a well in your flour and pour in all the liquid at once.

Fold together until just mixed. DO NOT BEAT!

Cover the bottom of your muffin cups with a tablespoon or so of the batter.

Place a spoonful or so (it is up to you how generous you wish to be…) of your caramel or lemon curd on to this and then top with the rest of the batter.

Bake on the top shelf of your oven for 20 mins, rotating the tray halfway through.

Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick or skewer through the thickest part of a muffin. If it comes out clean of batter, it’s done.

Leave to cool in the muffin tray for 20 mins or so, before removing to a cake rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!