If you thought fruit cake was just for Christmas, you’ve never spent time in Yorkshire. A good fruit cake is the kind of treat we enjoy all year round and is the kind of treat the slow food movement is all about, with time taken to soak the fruit to perfection before slowly baking it in a low oven until it’s cooked through but perfectly moist.

Whether you’re serving it to guests as part of a more formal afternoon tea, or just cutting off a corner to go with your cuppa during a well-earned break, there’s no better way to eat it than with a piece of cheese. Here in Kettlewell, we like to eat it with some of the Wensleydale that’s made just up the valley from here in Hawes, but it works just as well with a good cheddar or a hard goat’s or sheep’s cheese.

If – like the author of this post – you’re from the South of England and think eating fruit cake with cheese is, if not exactly weird, at least unexpected, I can only say that you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it. My first introduction to this culinary tradition was at my parents-in-law’s home in Cumbria, and they’d taken it with them from their time in Grassington, just a few miles from here. It turns out, it’s a combination that works very well, with the salty sharpness of the cheese offset by the rich, sweet fruit and treacle. With cheese or without, at Christmas or not, we know you’ll love this cake.

If you’ve made this recipe, why not share a photo of it on social media with the hashtag #kettlewellscarecrow? We’d love to see how you get on!

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A table dressed for afternoon tea with fine china on a pristine white tablecloth, and a delicious-looking fruitcake with a cake knife, ready to serve. Just add tea and cheese!
Yield: 27

Judels's Fruit Cake

Additional Time: 2 days
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours
Total Time: 2 days 7 hours 15 minutes

This is the ultimate moist, rich fruit cake. Don't be put off by the timings: it's worth soaking the fruit that long to get the fullness of flavour. Whether you're eating a small slice with a piece of our local Wensleydale cheese, or planning on making this as a Christmas cake to be lovingly fed over a few weeks, with this foolproof recipe, you can't go wrong.

Ingredients

  • 675g currants
  • 450g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 450g glace cherries, halved
  • Grated rind of 2 oranges
  • 300ml cream sherry
  • 350g soft unsalted butter
  • 350g dark muscovado sugar
  • 6 large free range eggs
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice

Instructions

  1. Put all the fruit in a container with the orange rind and stir in the sherry. A clear glass bowl with all the fruit mixed together, ready to soak.
  2. Cover with a lid or cling film and leave for 2 days, give it a stir every day. We promise: the 2 days are worth it! Just look at the difference: Fruit after 2 days of soaking
  3. Measure the butter, eggs, sugar and treacle into a large bowl and beat well. 
  4. Add both flours and spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Fruit cake ingredients on a granite counter, including brown sugar, flour and spices
  5. Stir in the soaked fruit. The soaked fruit being quite heavy, Judels recommends placing the bowl with the cake mix in the sink and then resting the bowl of fruit on the counter above as you empty it into the batter below. Adding the fruit to the cake mix: the bowl of cake mix is in the sink, while the fruit is above, making it easier to support the weight of the bowl as it gets emptied into the one below
  6. Grease and line a 9" square cake tin with non-stick baking paper. A cake tin lined with baking parchment ready for the cake mix in the neighbouring bowl to be poured in
  7. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level out evenly. The cake's ready to go into the oven, with the batter levelled to ensure the cake doesn't dome during cooking
  8. Cook in a fan oven at 140 degrees C (or a simmering oven of an Aga) for 7 - 8 hours.
  9. Check the cake is cooked by piercing through the centre of the cake with a skewer. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked, but if not put the cake back in the oven for a further 30 minutes and test again. The fruit cake is fresh from the oven and is cooling in its tin on the counter.
  10. Leave to cool in the tin and then turn out. The cake is ready, removed from the tin and placed on a board ready for serving

Notes

Apart from parkin, no cake quite represents a Yorkshire afternon tea the way fruit cake does. For us, it's not just for Christmas, a good fruit cake is an effort worth making year round, and is the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up with a piece of cheese - Wensleydale round here - and a good, strong, brew.

Soaking the fruit gives the cake a moistness that means it'll keep for a while, if you can keep people from eating it that long. And of course, this recipe is perfect for Christmas, too, fed for a few weeks with your choice of rum, brandy or whisky.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

27

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 403Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 82mgSodium: 76mgCarbohydrates: 65gFiber: 4gSugar: 48gProtein: 5g

Nutritional data provided is a guideline and will vary according to precise ingredients used and how large your home-made portions are.