With it being the summer holidays, the girls and I have done lots of picnics on our days out and this cake is excellent for picnics. It’s easy to make, is very moist, lasts for ages and is absolutely delicious. In fact Mr OC loves it so much he moans with joy when eating it!
I have adapted it from Jill Brand’s version in Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute Cakes and Biscuits (ISBN 0 74322 111 7) and reading through her introduction for this cake now she also says it’s ideal for picnics, so I must be right. Jill uses half and half wholemeal plain flour and self-raising flour. I use half spelt flour, half plain flour and two teaspoons of baking powder instead. The spelt flour gives it a lovely nutty flavour and texture.
Because I am lucky enough to have an Aga I make this cake in the evening and then leave it to cook slowly in the simmering oven all night and then check with a skewer when I get up and if I think it needs it I bake it for about 10 mins in the baking oven just to finish it off. It is deliciously moist this way and has the added bonus of filling the house with the scent of fruit cake with a generous dollop of mixed spice all night. But I have also cooked it the normal way and the way I will tell you about in the method below and it is almost as delicious.
For the mixed fruit I use whatever I have in the house, but it normally includes equal measures of raisins, sultanas and cranberries. I have tried dates but I didn’t chop them finely enough and I found them a bit mealy.
450g (1lb) mixed dried fruit
200g (8oz) caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g (4oz) butter
200ml (7 floz) water
100g (4oz) spelt flour
100g (4oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground mixed spice
50g (2oz) glace cherries, chopped
Preheat the oven to 160°c (gas mark 3) and line the base and sides of a 18 cm round cake tin.
In a large pan place the mixed fruit, sugar, butter, bicarbonate of soda and the water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes and then take off the heat and cool for 15 minutes.
Beat in the eggs. Sieve the flours, baking powder and mixed spice into the bowl. I add the cherries to the flour so that they get a good covering of flour in the process and this helps to stop them sinking to the bottom of the cake when cooking. Add the cherries and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the tin and either cook in an Aga in the way described in the introduction or in the preheated oven for 1¾ – 2 hours until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.