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Joan Bishop shares a non-traditional take on the festive fruit-cake.
This is a fabulous, non-traditional festive fruit-cake. However, some traditional ingredients do remain, giving a nod to the time-honoured Christmas cake. The Christmassy spices are still there and so is the dried fruit, it is the basis of the cake after all.
But then the excitement begins. Add a velvety stout swimming with dark undercurrents of roasted malts, chocolate and oats, suffusing all with a soft hint of bitterness.
Mix in freeze dried raspberry powder, cocoa and chocolate and you will have a cake which is deep, intensely complex and very, very moreish.
It’s simple too, my take on the boiled fruit cake. Simmer the dried fruits, sugars and stout together, letting the heat send buttery, treacley and chocolatey stout juices permeating into the dates, prunes and raisins.
Add flour, eggs, spices and the sweetly sour raspberry powder. Mix and pop into the oven to produce this amazingly, aromatic densely fruity cake. Wow, it’s a beauty!
It is not a good idea to substitute different dried fruits for the ones listed in the recipe. Dates, for example, are sweeter and more “melting” than other dried fruits. An alternative would not give you the same result.
Rich fruit cakes usually improve over time. If, however, despite your very best intentions, the cake is not baked until a few days before Christmas, it will still taste wonderful. I have eaten and enjoyed this cake within an hour or two of taking it from the oven.
But it does deepen and mellow if you can leave it to ripen for a week. Try a slice with a good-quality blue cheese and a glass of port.
Black Magic Christmas Cake
250g pitted prunes
250g dried pitted dates
¼ cup treacle
80g dark cane sugar
400ml stout or dark ale
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs, (size 7), beaten
220g plain flour
4 Tbsp cocoa powder (16g)
1 35g packet “Freeze dried” raspberry powder
1 tsp each ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
80g dark chocolate chips
Line the base of a round 20cm x 9cm deep cake tin with non-stick baking paper and lightly oil the sides.
The tin needs to be quite deep to accommodate the cake mixture and ensure that it doesn’t brown too much.
If your tin is not as high as this you could line the sides of the tin with brown paper and non-stick baking paper, taking the paper to a height of at least 9cm from the base. Position the baking shelf just below the centre of the oven.
Chop the dried fruit. Cut dates and prunes into thirds. The easiest way to do this is using kitchen scissors. Add raisins and set aside.
Place butter, treacle, dark cane sugar and stout in a medium to large saucepan. Gently heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the dried fruit and stir frequently bringing to the boil. Turn the heat off and stir in the baking soda. Leave in the saucepan to cool to room temperature (in cold water).
When cool, stir in the beaten eggs.
Heat the oven to 150degC on bake.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, raspberry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Stir the flour mixture into the fruit mixture in the saucepan and mix until smooth.
Spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.
Bake for 85-95 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin. When cold, turn out carefully, wrap the cake in greaseproof paper or foil and store in an airtight container.
The cake will keep for weeks if stored in a cool place.
I used Monteith’s Velvet stout. The freeze dried raspberry powder is produced by Fresh As and is available in the gourmet aisle of some supermarkets.