Our gorgeous boy turns one today. He is an adventurous, cheerful, content little soul. We have had a fabulous first year with him. On Sunday we held a birthday party, with family and friends. Some time ago I began thinking about the cake I would bake for him. Until recently his two favourite foods were pear and yoghurt. So I was thinking to make a cake from pear and yoghurt, a cheesecake perhaps, or a pear cake served with yoghurt.
Then a week before his party we were visiting my parents’ new flat. Mum and Dad have rented a flat in Edinburgh for a year to explore Scotland while also helping to take care of our little one. The year just gone has been precious, seeing our tiny baby grow into a wobbly, smiling, explorer. The year coming promises to be equally special as we see him develop and grow with my parents so near.
Having had lunch at my folks’ new flat we went for a walk and then returned for tea. Mum produced a super cake. It was packed with fruit, moist and rich. It was no ordinary fruit cake; it was the remains of my brother and his new wife’s wedding cake. The wedding was in September on a bright sunny day. It was a wonderful event, a day that was very them, full of love and smiles.
In Mum and Dad’s flat, we adults savoured and enjoyed this special cake. Our little one had a raisin from his Dad’s plate. It can sometimes be tricky getting him to eat. This raisin was a hit however and he came back very quickly for two fistfuls of cake. I have never seen him eat food as quickly. It was clear that his birthday cake should be fruity.
To create this particular cake I have taken the best from 5 different recipes. My recipe uses a Victoria sponge as it’s starting point. That means there is the same amount of butter, sugar and eggs in the mix. This gives a light sponge. The recipe needs 5oz/140g of eggs, which is a little less than 3 large eggs. If you have medium eggs, there will be less waste. I used soft dark brown sugar as well as treacle which gives the sponge the dark colour a fruit cake has. It also adds that deep molasses flavour, perfect for chilly autumnal days.
I have added a large quantity of fruit and nuts. Years ago, my aunt introduced Mum and I to the concept of a whispery fruit cake. Some fruit cakes have fruit so spaced out the fruit has to shout to each other to know the other is there. In whispery fruit cakes, the fruit only needs to whisper because they are so close. My cake is a seriously whispery fruit cake. I like adding apricots, dates, cranberries etc. It will work well with any mixture of dried fruit, just as long as the total weight is the same as specified. If I am using larger dried fruit, for examples apricots and dates, I cut them to the size of the other dried fruit. The dried fruit is soaked for ten minutes in boiling water which helps the cake be moist. In a normal sponge cake it’s important to at least quarter your nuts to ensure they don’t sink in the mixture as the cake cooks. This isn’t needed in a whispering fruit cake, as there is so much fruit and nuts, things can’t sink. I therefore leave the nuts whole, but chop them if you prefer.
This recipe is for an 8”/20cm x 4”/10cm cake. I use this cake tin, which is adjustable and easy to use. We decided we needed a rocket shaped cake because one of our little ones favourite nursery rhymes has the line “Zoom zoom zoom we’re going to the moon” in it. I may have created the recipe, but I am not the cake icer in our house, that is very much Dave’s department. He is a dab hand with fondant icing.
This cake is 2½”/6½cm deep when cooked and 3”/8cm deep when iced.
Birthday fruit cake
1lb/450g mixture of dried fruit such as raisins, sultanas, cranberries, blueberries, apricots, prunes or dates
5oz/140g unsalted butter
5oz/140g dark brown sugar
5oz/140g plain flour
a good pinch of salt
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2oz whole almonds
2oz macadamia nuts
2oz/50g glacé cherries, chopped
2oz/50g mixed candied peel, chopped
1½ tsp black treacle
Grated lemon zest
Butter for greasing
5 tbsp of apricot jam
1lb1oz/500g white fondant icing
4½oz/125g yellow fondant icing
9oz/250g red fondant icing
1lb1oz/500g blue fondant icing
9oz/250g black fondant icing
8”/20cm x 4″/10cm tin
1. Preheat the oven to 140°C/120°C fan/285°F/Gas mark 1.
2. Line the cake tin with well greased baking paper.
3. Place 1lb/450g mixture of dried fruit into a large bowl and cover with boiling hot water for ten minutes, then drain.
4. While you wait for the fruit to soak, beat the butter until it’s soft, with an electric whisk. Now beat in the sugar. The beating incorporates air into the sponge which makes it light, this is an important part of the process.
5. Whisk the eggs and then weigh out 5oz/140g of the eggs. Add the whisked egg to the butter and sugar a little at a time, beating well after each addition.
6. Sift the flour on top of the butter mixture, then add the spices and salt. Using a metal spoon stir in the flour.
7. Now add in the nuts, cherries, peel, dried fruit, treacle and zest and stir to combine.
8. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin. Using the back of a teaspoon make a 6″/15cm x 1″/2½cm channel down the middle of the cake. This stops the cake raising too much in the middle.
9. Put into the oven for 3 – 3¼ hours.The cake is done when a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin for ten minutes until a little cool and then remove from the tin and cool on a cooling rack.
To decorate the cake
10. Once the cake is completely cool, cut it into a rocket shape.
11. Warm the jam and using a pastry brush cover the cake in the jam. This helps the marzipan to stick.
12. Roll out the marzipan and cover the cake with it.
13. Mix some black and blue icing to make the sky and cover the plate or cake stand you are using.
14. Mix some white and black icing to make the moon and moon craters and add to the cake stand.
15. Roll the white icing out and cover the marzipan. Roll the blue and red icing out and cover the top and bottom of the rocket.
16. Roll out the yellow icing and cut out a number one and stars, position on top of the cake and scene.
17. Lastly using the writing icing add a name.
For a different cake, replace the glacé cherries and peel with chopped crystallised ginger.
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