This is a recipe for a special fruit cake. It is a family recipe handed down the years.Check your drawers and cupboards for handwritten recipes written with biro pens on lined paper ripped out of old school jotters.They could be very valuable. There should be a kind of ‘Antiques Roadshow’ for such gems. If you find some they may be worth recreating. I just did and here are the results.
Like always if you only want to skip straight to the recipe just scroll down and dive right in and get baking, if not read on.
This recipe was described by my relatives as ‘Belgian Loaf’. It is not ‘loaf like’ it is more of a rich fruit cake but is very nice sliced with or without butter and a big mug of tea. The Belgian link makes me think it relates to the kind of World War One ‘trench cake’.The basic cake that was made and posted to troops in the trenches. It had vinegar of all things in it but otherwise it has some similarities. Perhaps this recipe is a more decadent version of it when things like sugar and fruit became more available.
In my family the recipe seems to have been doing the rounds for over forty years. My parents and uncles and aunts used to holiday together and they made batches of it to take on holiday. Diets and bereavement mean such gems get forgotten or shoved to the back of kitchen cupboards and drawers.
Recent changes in my own living situation made me think about this lost treasure . I think it was also the pale insipid sultana cake that passes for ‘cake’ in the supermarkets that challenged me. I knew I could do better. I just had to find the recipe. Not any recipe you understand, the recipe.
After rummaging around drawers and kitchen cupboards I came up empty handed. I even looked optimistically in files and folders on my computer. No joy. Siri and Alexa were not going to help me either as this was a bit unique, at least in my mind. No, I knew I would have to go to the source in order to recreate this recipe. At 94 my Dad is about as reliable as it gets in terms of historical accuracy.
On hearing my request he shot up from his chair and went straight to the old hand written phone/address book in the hall. He still keeps it there even the phone got moved years ago. Sure enough out came the recipe from the inside front page.It was carefully sealed in a small sealed poly bag as if to preserve its contents for all of humanity.
Although the recipe was clear enough, if a bit discoloured , I struggled to remember how to do justice to it. With all recipes there are variations, optional extras. The older the recipe the less likely they are to factor in things like fan ovens. So I took 10 minutes off the cooking time. The only other ‘secret’ ingredient which came to me as I was preparing my first ‘batch’ was a spoonful of treacle.It is not essential and tastes fine without it but it does add a certain something in terms of colour and taste. It should be added at the first stage to the pot with the other ingredients.Those of you who jumped straight into baking may miss the secret ingredient but hopefully not too many of you.
4 oz of margarine or 113.39 g. Half a packet- look out for the measuring lines on the packaging
For the rest of the measurements I use a cup like this. A normal tea cup.
These measures are enough for one 2lb loaf tin ( see images below)
1 cup of mixed fruit (half sultanas and half raisins)
1 cup of Demerara sugar
1 cup of milk
Put all of the these ingredients in a small pot and heat until boiling
Simmer for 5 minutes
In a mixing bowl sieve two cups of self raising flour
Sprinkle in half a teaspoon of baking powder
Cool the pot mixture slightly then add to the flour in the mixing bowl
Add one egg and mix making sure all the flour has been absorbed
Pour mixture in a prepared baking tin. I used a loaf tin with butter but baking paper can also be used
Oven needs to be pre-heated to 180 degrees
Bake for 40-45 making sure you get nice ‘cracked’ appearance on the top and the ‘loaf’ is firm
Remove from tin to cool. This will not slice properly until it has cooled down considerably.
The result should look something like this. It is an easy recipe to try so why not give it a go? It is also easy to do two or more at one time and it keeps very well. It would make a great gift and who knows the way things are going it may even serve as currency one day.
Enjoy this recipe and watch out for your own hidden treasures, they may be well worth rescuing.