When I was a child, my dad brought a recipe book back from a golf tournament. A fundraiser recipe book, with a yellow cover, small and very modest. In the book was a recipe for fruitcake, and that recipe became my signature cake as a young eager baker. It called for a kilo of fruit mix and a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I made it on every occasion. But most of all, we ate it when we went camping. Any leftovers after Christmas were wrapped in tin foil and taken with us, and I’ll always associate fruitcake not with huddling inside while it’s miserable out, but with a dry hot summer sitting under a shady tree near a tent. Some might call it Christmas Cake, but I think of it as Camping Cake.
Several months ago, I saw a tin of sweetened condensed coconut milk in Moore Wilsons. I’ve seen the same brand in several other shops since then, and the link above takes you to an online shop. It’s easy to come by – and it means that the fruitcake I’ve been making for over twenty years can now be your latest dairy-free / vegan baking addition to a festive occasion.
The amazing thing about this cake is that it doesn’t need to age. It’s quick to make and you can make it the day before it needs to be eaten. Nonetheless it keeps well, being a fruitcake.
The recipe is very simple but it’s a slightly unusual method so I suggest reading all the way through before you start.
- 1 Tbsp vinegar (apple cider is best but any is fine)
- 1 cup water (plus slightly more if the fruit mix is very dry)
- 1 kg fruit mix
- 2 tsp preferred spices (mixed spice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamon, etc)
- 1 tin (320g) sweetened condensed coconut milk
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 Tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 Tbsp whiskey or brandy
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of salt
- Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper and preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (150 degrees if using fan bake)
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and reserve. (NOT the baking soda)
- Put the vinegar, water, fruit mix, and spices together in your largest pot. Stir well to combine and gently bring to a simmer on a very low heat.
- Once simmering, add the condensed coconut milk, vanilla essence, golden syrup, and whiskey. Stir until it’s all melted and well-mixed, and turn the heat off. The mixture can be left at this stage for a few minutes to cool slightly, but the next steps need to be done rapidly.
- Add the baking soda to the mixture and stir quickly. The mixture will bubble up like a potion (kids love this step!), then the bubbles will start to recede. The soda needs to be completely mixed in so there are no horrible little soda lumps when you eat the cake. It helps to sift the soda across the whole mixture, and then quickly stir it through and let the bubbles do part of the mixing job.
- As soon as the bubbles from the soda abate, add the pre-sifted flour. The flour needs to be stirred through quickly and thoroughly as well, with a big wooden spoon or a spatula. It will be a fairly think mixture.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Wet your hands and smooth the top over, compressing it slightly in the middle to allow for rising.
- Bake for 2 hours, turning half way through. Check with a skewer before removing from the oven – the skewer should be clean.
- Allow to cool completely, then wrap it in a teatowel that has been soaked in whiskey, and store in a cake tin until you’re ready to eat it!
I’ve experimented with many other fruitcakes because I love fruitcakes, but I always come back to this cake for everyday occasions because it’s 100% reliable.