It’s deserving…

A wrinkled, foil covered rectangular block was sitting, alone on the vast expanse of my mother-in-law’s black granite kitchen worktop. A sliver of winter light escaped through the wooden window slats, resting on that silver carapace: it shone like a beacon. There was no alternative direction my mind could have taken when I entered the kitchen. The food obsessed areas of my brain (that’s most of it) involuntarily zoomed in on the promise of a baked good. I think perhaps the reason I was drawn to it is, that one, it was obviously homemade and two, my mother-in-law never bakes. So this stranger in a familiar land peaked my curiosity.Cue the hustle and bustle of stripping kids out of winter coats, hats, scarves and other items of insulation, while piling into the cosy back room of the house. As usual, we were talking over each other’s heads; voices calling out, ” YES!!!” to the question of, ” Tea?”. After settling the kids and smoothing the ruffles in my hair, my thoughts went back to that silver covered block. My mother-in-law brought in the tea tray. On it, was a plate holding thick slabs of raisin studded cake. Well, now. This might be interesting, especially as there were no signs of vile candy peels or worse, those horrid, lurid cherries, the colour of clowns noses. I dislike clowns. Actually, I am rather scared of them. But that’s not the point, I digress.

I like an ordinary fruit cake. Simple, unaffected and unpretentious. It does not mean, that stale spiced , dry cardboard will do, just because it’s there. It must have substance. I waited politely for the tea to go around, before napkins and wee plates were passed for the cake. If it were in my house, I’d have slapped the brown slab into a napkin ( if I remembered) and onto your outstretched palms. My in-laws, however, do things right. So, a steaming cup of tea sat at the ready, I proceeded to eat this cake that occupied so much of my mind for the last quarter of an hour. And it did not disappoint.

I caught the scent of mixed spice as soon as I picked it up, good start. This was a firm textured cake, very much a tea fruit cake but  sweeter than usual. The fruit was plump and moist and the spices came through, warm and cosy. It was rather satisfying and I found myself eyeing another slice, which my mother-in-law spotted. She lifted the plate to me and I didn’t bother protesting. The cake is a standard bake of one of their friends, who regularly makes this for my father-in-law, knowing his penchant for something ‘fine’ with his ‘fly’ cup in the afternoon. Or around nine pm even, when his tea (dinner) has settled. On my request, my  mother-in-law asked her pal for the recipe and she very kindly gave it to me. And I have since, baked this cake every few months and usually have some mini loaves stashed in the freezer for those inevitable, desperate days.

It’s an everyday cake and by saying that I am probably doing it a disservice. See, the world of baking is occupied with the indulgent. I suppose, by its very nature, baking is a luxury and one could argue, an unnecessary one at that. My point is this – I sometimes feel that if a cake is not toweringly three-storied , billowing in buttercream or piped to perfection, it isn’t worth the consideration or the post space. Now before I get pelted with piping bags, understand that I am in awe and admiration of all those cake artists, who truly express the breadth and creativity of the medium, going beyond anything my limited abilities (or patience) can produce. I just don’t see a simple, everyday, plain ol’ fruitcake often.

Every time I get the scent of this warm, spiced cake meandering its way through the house, I remember that day and so many others, I had with my in-laws. I have shared many an engaging conversation with my MIL while we both munched at a slice each. I think of the pleasure on my FIL’s face when I made a stash of these for their cupboards or a happy email received, when I had this baked and sent for Mother’s Day, after I moved to Qatar.

I do not wish to glorify its simplicity; it does not require such noble service. For me, it’s homely and that’s the charm it possesses. It’s more than enough.

Everyday Fruit Cake

2 cups / 280gm mixed fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas)
1 cup / 250 ml water
1/2 cup /110g caster sugar
1/2 cup/ 90g dark brown sugar
1 stick or 110g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup / 145g plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup / 145g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 170deg C. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper or two 1lb loaf tins. Put the fruit, water, sugar, butter, spices and bicarb of soda into a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer around 15 minutes. Add the beaten egg and the flour into the pan, and mix thoroughly, but you don’t need to beat the dickens out of it. Dollop the fruit studded batter into the loaf tins and place in the oven.

Bake for around half an hour for the 1 lb loaf or for 3/4 hour for the 2lb loaf tin. I would start checking around 5-8 minutes before it’s due to come out. They can sometimes take a bit longer. It’s ready when a cake tester or spaghetti comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

Turn out of the tins and let it cool on a wire rack. It will keep well for a few days in an airtight container. When cool, you can also wrap them in parchment and foil and freeze. Leave outside at room temperature to thaw.

Note : You could try this with all manner of dried fruit, like cranberries, or proper dried cherries ( I cannot countenance those fake, bright red ones..). Sub some of the flour with ground almonds or throw in handfuls of slivered almonds or any nuts that have been bashed to gravel sized rubble. Change the spices around. Make it all brown sugar if you are that way inclined. I sometimes do. Really, it’s your baby.


20 thoughts on “It’s deserving…

  1. Thanh @ eat, little bird

    You know that I’m not a fan of fruit cake but your writing almost made me forget that fact! I recently tried a fruit cake which came very close to converting me – a major milestone, I would have to admit. I love recipes that are handed around – it gives the recipe that much more character. Beautiful photos 🙂

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Oh I know Thanh and my sister isn’t either a fan either. Nigella’s Chocolate Christmas Cake is her idea of food hell!!! And yours come to think of it lol….

      Recipes handed down are the best, without question!

  2. melanie

    Ah!! something looks familiar. I have one mini loaf waiting in my goodies container and now I know the background. Ofcourse we or rather me are miserly finishing of the orange cake and gingerbread cake you sent over. The fruitcake shall be the next. Considering I dislike fruitcake will give it a try after reading this post…..

  3. Hannah de Bevy de La Faverge

    What a wonderfully written piece Caroline! I’m not a fruit cake fan either but as Creme said you’ve tempted me!

  4. Mom

    These are absolutely delicious. I love fruit cakes and specially this one because the size is just right for me. (One sitting only) ha ha aaaa. Melanie, there is no problem if you do not like it. I am here to like it. And like Hannah has commented that was a superb piece on a fruit cake. Reminded me of Wilbur Smith. His writing also conjures up vivid pictures in your mind.

  5. thelittleloaf

    Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog…and for letting me discover yours! These little cakes look absolutely gorgeous and completely agree – sometimes the simplest things are the best and most delicious 🙂

  6. NYinRome

    I so agree. It´s that category of cakes that are so simple and apparently anonymous they don´t always come to mind as WOW´ers, but they are as you described so perfectly deserving…. I think of my Mom´s yellow cake in this way. 🙂

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Och you’re lucky to have a cake in your family that you think of like that. All of mine foodie comforts from childhood are savoury based. Baking was not quite there but mum did do a simple chocolate pound cake and, my favourite, coffee pound cake…I think i’m making up for the lack of sugar based goods!!

  7. Heather @ SugarDish(Me)

    These little mini loaves are adorable. Your story is beautiful! I was with you the whole way, anticipating the sweet happiness, trying to be patient while everyone else ran through formalities– I am also a slap it on a napkin & go kinda girl (probably because I am the dishwasher)— anyway, you built up the suspense, and now I have to try this! Will update you soon…

    1. thePatternedPlate

      I did wonder after I published it, whether I have made it grander than it is. It’s such a simple cake. And the story is true. This cake is my foodie representation of living in Scotland. I miss it. And the people.

      I’m bad for not putting things onto plates when I can easily carry them around..but that means I leave a trail behind me! Even my kids reach out to the cupboards for plates when I dont LOL

  8. Lucy

    This cake sounds delicious and so comforting – I love your descriptions. I love fruit cake and this sounds like a gorgeous new recipe to try out!

    1. The Patterned Plate

      Hahah!!!ONLY another Keralite would understand exactly what I am talking about 😀 The surprise of it is that you agree with me, you’re the first!!! I have had several loud, raucous debates with my three traditional-minded uncles on the issue and they are vehement in their defence of it. For what? Barely edible cardboard? Bizarrely a similar, if not the same, cake is served at Christian weddings. Awful! Save me!

  9. Pingback: Recipe List By The Patterned Plate » |

  10. unchainedeatery

    Awesome photos! Did you take them yourself? I’m still in the “needs improvement” phase of photographing food, but I’ll get there. Or I’ll stuff myself trying. 🙂

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