Something different in the mix

Old-fashioned fruitcakes are forever popular and a good one is moist and very flavourful. I've given this delectably moist cake an enormous flavour buzz with the inclusion of ingredients not always associated with fruitcakes; Guinness, blackcurrant jam, aniseed, cocoa and nutmeg.

Guinness, with its subtle, bitter, burnt, dark roasted flavours is superbly balanced by the richness of the dried fruit, the blackcurrant jam and a hint of licorice. Cocoa and nutmeg both temper somewhat the bitterness of the Guinness, and nutmeg also boosts the flavour of the cocoa, adding a fresh spiciness.

Dried figs with their sweet-sour balance are very compatible with aniseed and cocoa. However, if you really can't abide figs, replace with other dried fruit. Those not keen on aniseed need not worry as the taste is discreet, one of several flavours adding up to the aromatic whole which is the cake. I would not suggest you leave the anise seed out - maybe reduce the amount to one teaspoon.

The important thing to remember when storing fruitcakes is to keep them as airtight as possible. They will cut better if cold, so storing in the refrigerator well wrapped is a good idea. This cake is usually at its best when left to mature for a couple of days; the flavour deepens and the cake's texture and moisture develops.

However, it is still very, very good eaten on the day it is made.


Guinness and blackcurrant fruitcake

Photo by Linda Robertson.
Photo by Linda Robertson.

30g butter
170g dark cane sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
500g mixed dried fruit
150g dried figs, chopped
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp blackcurrant jam
330ml bottle Guinness, draught
½  tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, size 7, beaten
2 tsp whole aniseed
100g shelled walnuts, roughly chopped
300g self-raising flour


Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder and stir until well combined.

Add the mixed dried fruit, figs, nutmeg, blackcurrant jam and Guinness.

Stir over gentle heat until the mixture is hot but do not boil. This hot flavourful liquid is absorbed by the dried fruit as it reconstitutes. Add baking soda and cool to room temperature.

Heat the oven to 160degC.

Line the base of a 22-23cm cake tin with non-stick baking paper and lightly oil the sides. Stir eggs, aniseed and walnuts into fruit mixture and mix well.

Add the sifted flour.

Spread mixture into prepared tin and bake for one hour 25 minutes to one hour 30 minutes.

Cool in the tin. Store in an airtight tin or wrapped in foil.

Keeping time: Four weeks in a cool place.


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