What to make for a birthday party – but one in a restaurant?
I was carrying the cake on the train to get there, and expected that people would be taking pieces home rather than eating them there and then so I rejected anything with icing and opted instead for a lavish fruit and nut cake with ginger.
There’s nothing economical about this, but it is easy, portable, and lasts for weeks (if you can stop yourself from eating it).
Serve it in thin slides and it looks beautiful.
Ginger fruit and nut cake
You need to start at a day before you want to eat it, or any time up to a month before.
It’s amazingly easy: all you do is soak the fruit overnight, then add some zest, flour and eggs and stick it in the oven.
Stage one – a day ahead
A large bowl
A cup measure
A big spoon
Clingfilm / plastic wrap
Dried apricots (the hard sort, not the soft ready-to-eat ones) – 200g, buy them ready-chopped or cut each one into 4 pieces
Stem ginger – 200g, chopped (crystallised or in syrup, doesn’t matter)
Glace cherries – 200g, leave them whole
Tropical fruit mix* – 300g, (the Tesco “Island Mix” one comes chopped. You may need to cut up larger pieces).
Sultanas – 300g
Cut mixed peel – 200g, chopped
Ginger wine – 250mls
*This is a mixture of chopped papaya, pineapple, raisins and apricots. Any mixture of pale(ish) chopped dried fruit is fine.
If you don’t fancy the mixture of fruit here, then swap with whatever you like. You’re aiming for a total of 1400 grams, and it’s good to have plenty of the sharper fruit such as peel, apricots and ginger.
If you don’t have ginger wine, substitute rum or cold tea.
Put everything in the bowl, mix it up, cover, and leave it overnight or longer. If you have a chance, give it a good stir every now and then.
Stage two – the baking
A Microplane fine grater*
A big spoon
Two large loaf tins OR ten small ones**
*if you don’t have a Microplane, then you’ll need a peeler, sharp knife and chopping board.
**if you want to make small ones and don’t have small tins, Sainsbury’s or Lakeland sell packs of disposable individual loaf tins.
Your bowl of fruit mixture, from above
Brazil nuts – 200g
Almonds – 200g
An orange, preferably unwaxed
A lemon, preferably unwaxed
Plain flour – 150g
Baking powder – half a teaspoon
Pinch of salt (optional)
Eggs – 2 large
Rum – 125 mls (optional)
- Heat your oven to 150 degrees (conventional), 140 degrees (fan).
- Cut pieces of baking parchment the same size as the base of each of your tins and use them to line the base of each tin.
- Add the nuts to the bowl of fruit.
- Grate in the zest of the orange and the lemon. (If you don’t have a Microplane, use a peeler to peel off just the zest of the orange and the lemon. Chop them finely and add to the fruit).
- Sprinkle the flour over the mixture.
- Sprinkle the baking powder over the flour.
- Sprinkle in a pinch of salt. (If you prefer to avoid salt, it won’t matter much if you leave it out)
- Break in the eggs.
- Don’t put the rum in now – that goes on the cakes after they come out of the oven.
- Give everything a really good stir until it’s thoroughly mixed. It will look as if it’s not enough flour and egg to start with, but it will gradually turn into just enough batter to hold the mixture together.
- Scrape the mixture into the tins.
- If you want to be fancy, fish out some of the cherries and brazils and arrange them on top of the cakes.
- Bake until they smell fragrantly of cake and are medium-brown on top; about an hour (large cakes) or about 30 minutes (small cakes).
- Leave to cool in their tins.
- If you are using rum then pour the rum onto them as they cool or when convenient.
- For small cakes in disposable paper cases, pour on just a little drip of rum now and again. I tried to pour on a whole teaspoon per cake and found that a lot of it ran out of the underneath of the cases.
You could definitely change any of the fruit or nuts as you wish. My friend is allergic to walnuts and hazlenuts, so I chose almonds and brazils.
If you don’t like ginger, then use rum or cold tea for the original soaking. I found it doesn’t make much difference. The main rum flavour comes from the rum you pour over at the end.
If baked as two large cakes, this makes 30 servings (sliced thinly) at about 260 calories /9.1g fat per serving.
If baked as 10 mini-cakes, this makes 20 servings at about 390 calories / 13.6g fat per serving.