Bake Off 2019: How to make a fruit cake like one in first signature challenge

The Great British Bake Off is back and it’s cake week.

The first challenge of 2019 is to make a fruit cake.

It might seem a little autumnal when we’re in the middle of a heatwave but it’s up to the judges to decide.

So if you’re inspired to create your own signature bake, we’ve got a recipe for a sweet treat crammed with fruit, nuts and soaked in alcohol for you to create at home.

Obviously the bakers will have the opportunity to be creative but we’ve stuck to a fairly traditional recipe from Patisserie Valerie.

Before you start, our experts from Rachel Jones and Matt Scaife, from Patisserie Valerie, and Reshmi Bennet from Anges de Sucres, have some tips to create the perfect rich, moist cake, worthy of a Hollywood handshake.

Which alcohol should you use for a fruitcake?

You can use any spirits you’d like to, but for a traditional fruitcake Rachel recommends brandy, rum or whiskey.

Use a cheaper brand for the batter, as the alcohol evaporates while baking, but use a high-quality one for the feeding of the cake.

Matt’s  top tip is to use Athru Annacoona 14-year old whiskey for the feeding of the cake.

Are there any alcohol-free options?

You could use juice or a fruit syrup. Citrus syrup would work well.

Which fruit should you use?

This is entirely up to your personal taste, but a traditional fruitcake is made with dried fruits.

Rachel used cranberries, raisins, glace cherries, and chopped apricots. She works with a recipe that has been in her family for years.

She says the glace cherries really pop while you’re eating.

You could use fresh fruits like apples or carrots as well, this would make it more moist.

What is important when mixing the ingredients together?

Make sure to let the batter cool off before adding the flour and eggs, because it might accidentally scramble the eggs otherwise.

Add the flour first, then the free-range eggs for the same reason.

Don’t beat it for too long, this makes the flour overworked and stretchy.

As you use so much fruit – roughly 1kg – the batter will be so heavy when you add it to the spring form it would make sense to even it out with a scraper. It won’t really even itself out like most cakes.

Why is feeding the cake important?

Fruitcake is often made a few weeks or even months ahead of time to allow the liquor to seep into the cake and properly blend with the other flavors. 

You can feed the cake daily for a couple of months, but you should stop two to three weeks before you decorate and serve the cake. This way, it can fully develop its flavours.

How do you feed the cake?

Poke several holes in the top and sides of the fruitcake using a skewer.

Pour ¼ cup of your choice of liquor over the fruitcake, ensuring that the liquor gets into the holes.

Wrap it in plastic foil so it soaks up all the liquid.

Repeat daily for up to a few months.

What are the best icings for fruitcake?

Traditional fruitcakes usually have a layer of marzipan as well as sugar paste or fondant as icing, but we opted for a more summery version, with Swiss meringue buttercream icing. It’s not as sweet and has a nicer, fluffier texture.

How do you know when the meringue is ready?

Stick your finger in there. You want it to be firm and glazed.

When beating, start low and build up a speed, because you don’t want things to go flying around.

You can also flavour this icing with spices or alcohol, but we kept it light and simple for this summery version.

Which fruits and nuts should you use for decoration?

Pecans, walnuts, star anise, cinnamon, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, redcurrants, cherries (spray-coated with golden colour).

An odd number of cherries always looks better than an even number.

Now let’s get onto the fruitcake recipe:

The ingredients for the fruit cake

To make a large 8 inch cake:

1 kg mixed dried fruits (fruit choice is personal preference, I used sultanas, raisins, currants, cranberries, diced apricots and whole glace cherries)

1 orange zest and juice

1 lemon zest and juice

150ml booze + extra for feeding (we used a mixture of rum and whiskey today)

250g unsalted butter

200g light soft brown sugar

175g plain flour

100g ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking powder

2tsp mixed spice

1tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cloves

4 large eggs

1tsp vanilla extract

Swiss meringue buttercream

75g egg white

113g caster sugar

150g softened butter – cubed

(We kept this plain today to let the flavours in the cake shine but you could flavour it with alcohol/vanilla/citrus to personal taste)

Decorations used

Golden cherries





Nibbed pistachios

Whole pecans

Whole walnuts

Cinnamon stick (for decoration only, not to eat!)

Whole Star anise (for decoration only, not to eat!)

Rosemary sprigs  (for decoration only, not to eat!)

Cake could be made alcohol free by using orange juice inside, and feeding with a flavoured syrup

It could also be made nut free by removing thr ground almonds, adding an extra 100g plain flour and not using nuts to decorate

The method

To make the cake:

To make the icing:

To decorate:

The baked and iced cake can be stored ambient (and are best eaten at room temperature). But be aware any fresh fruit used as decoration will have a limited shelf life.

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