Recipe: Rich fruit cake

Make Christmas a one to remember with this classic Mrs Beeton recipe, the perfect centrepiece for family festivities.

Serves: 10- 12 people

Preparation time: 1 hour plus overnight soaking

Cooking time: 2 hours 30 minutes


500g mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, and currants)

50g homemade candied peel, chopped

50g glacé cherries, halved

115g flaked almonds

60ml brandy

60ml sherry

1 lemon, finely zested

160g softened unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

160g soft brown sugar

1 tbsp black treacle or molasses

3 medium eggs

3 tbsp milk

A pinch of salt

½ tsp ground mace

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

½ tsp mixed spice

200g sifted plain flour

Special equipment

A deep 17cm round cake tin

1. Combine the dried fruit, peel, cherries, almonds, sherry, and brandy into a large bowl. Give them a good stir before covering the bowl with cling film or a tea towel. Leave overnight so the fruit can soak up the alcohol.

2. Preheat the oven to 140°C or gas mark 1. Line a baking tray with a double layer of foil before greasing the cake tin and lining its base and sides with non-stick baking paper. Then secure a sheet of newspaper around the outside of the tin with a paperclip.

3. Add the lemon zest to the saturated fruit and stir well.

4. In another large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, before beating in the treacle or molasses. Then follow with beating the eggs and milk together before adding to the butter mixture. Do this in three to four batches, continuing to beat well in between.

5. Now, sift together the salt, spices and flour and fold them into the butter mixture until just combined. Add the fruit and stir to distribute it evenly through the batter, then transfer the batter to the tin. Make a shallow depression in the middle.

6. Place the tin on the baking tray and cover with a sheet of foil, tucking it under the tin to keep it in place. Bake in the centre of the oven for 2 ½ hours, turning every 30 minutes. Check to see if it is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, it’s ready. If not, reduce the oven temperature to 130°C or to gas mark 1 or 2, and retest after 30 minutes.

7. Cool the cake overnight in the tin, then carefully turn it out, leaving the baking paper in place, and store in an airtight container for a month or so to mature, occasionally unwrapping and spooning over 2-3 tbsp brandy every week for 3- 4 weeks.

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