The wedding cake: traditional fruit cake with a citrus twist

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So, there’s a wedding in the air.  In just over a month to be exact.  We are looking at organising a frugal event based on our values of family, community, inclusion and frugality.  Which brings me to the cake.

When it came to think about the cake, I wondered if maybe I could partially buy one, purchase a cheap one or coerce a friend to make one. In fact, friend DID offer to make one, but she is going through a rough time relationship wise and I didn’t want to impose.  Then I started thinking more ambitiously about what I wanted.

My Nana used to make intricate decorated cakes.  She was artistic and this was her thing.  To be honest, her style belonged to a different time and the intricate painted fondant designs she made for the lady president of her local bowls club wasn’t quite me.  But I have some of her old cake decorating books, and was really fascinated about the possibilities of what you could do with sugar art.

I was surprised when my Neil encouraged me to try and experiment with making our wedding cake. “You’ll enjoy the challenge and the creativity,” he said.  He was right: I was enjoying the process of thinking about it, but I was (and am) still daunted about the prospect of doing it. I LOVE baking, but cake icing had never been my thing. Or maybe I had just never learnt how to do it?

That said, I knew what we wanted.  We are planning a country hall wedding, and with it we wanted a traditional fruit cake. I’m planning on making sugar roses and plum blossoms (note: not cherry – the plum blossoms will symbolise my time in Taiwan).  Modern style wedding cakes, while lovely, do not resonate with me (us) as much.

What surprised me was how my two boys really wanted to be involved in making the cake with me.  Well, they wanted to help with aspects of making the cake, like mixing and watching it bake.  And my Neil got in and helped with the mixing as well, especially for the bigger cake when it got bit hard.  Whether or not the cake turns out as planned, I know that is symbolises the values of family and love that are so important to us.  Even if my icing turns out shonky the cake should taste okay:)

I am not sure why the traditional fruit cake has gone out of favour. I guess most brides like chocolate.  Plus the ingredients for fruit cake can be a bit expensive, and the process takes time. But an advantage of making fruit cake for the DIY wedding cake maker is that you can bake it in advance. In fact, traditionally they were baked at least six weeks before a wedding. You can even ice and assemble them around a week before  the event and just leave them there. I think you can even ice them earlier.  With multi-tier cakes costing hundreds of dollars, this traditional fruit cake recipe can save you a heap.  Well, at least that’s the plan.

Ingredients

I’m hoping to make three (or maybe even four!) layers, so I have adjusted the quantities accordingly.  Most cake tins are probably around 20cm.  The advice generally is that you have the cake sizes around two inches apart, but, well I felt  if I went out and bought a whole set of new tins that would kind of defeat the savings made by making it myself.  Shhh, don’t tell anyone I cheated a bit.

25cm (10 inch) round tin

500g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1  1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1.5kg dried mixed fruit
150g almonds, chopped
Rind of one lemon, chopped (preferably from making limoncello)
6 tablespoons of limoncello
340g butter
150g raw sugar
180g brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons black treacle

23cm (9 inch) round tin

340g plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1kg dried mixed fruit
100g almonds, chopped
Rind of half a lemon, chopped (preferably from making limoncello)
4 tablespoons of limoncello
225g butter
100g raw sugar
125g brown sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle

20cm (8 inch) round tin

170g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
500g dried mixed fruit
50g almonds, chopped
Rind of half a lemon, chopped (preferably from making limoncello)
2 tablespoons of limoncello
115g butter
50g raw sugar
60g brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon black treacle

Method

  1. Pour the limoncello over the dried fruit and chopped almonds, and allow it to sit overnight. This step isn’t essential, but I like the way that the limoncello softens the fruit. It works best if you use a large baking bowl.
  2. The next day, line your cake pan with baking paper.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the sugars and black treacle.
  4. Add the flour and the butter mixture to the dried fruit in batches and stir with a large wooden spoon.  The mixture will be stiff and thick – this is a heavy cake.  If you think the mixture is too heavy, you can add a tablespoon or two of milk.
  5. Spoon into the cake tin and bake it at around 160C (fan forced) for around one hour.  The cake should start to be a bit brown on top. Then reduce the heat to around 140/150C (fan forced) and bake a further half an hour to an hour.
  6. Note: the larger cakes will take longer and the smaller cake will take less time, so watch what the cake is doing and adjust accordingly.  The cake is dense and will not rise much during baking.
  7. When cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Store in a plastic container covered with foil.  You can drip in a few tablespoons more of brandy, sherry or limoncello each week or so if you would like the cake to be moist.

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