I have a (small) stack of books waiting to be written about, but post number 1000 probably deserves cake, and I'm quietly pleased (delighted, and want to shout about it) that after turning out disappointingly dry Christmas cakes I've managed to come to terms with my newish fan oven and got it right again.
Fruit cake, like marmalade, is something I've only come to really appreciate in the last decade or so, and given the wintery turn the weather has finally taken it doesn't hurt that it pairs as nicely with a modest dram as it does a cup of tea. Facing the rest of February without the prospect of tea AND cake - to miserable to contemplate. I also had quite a lot of dried fruit left over, and it needed using for something.
The cake in question is the caramel fruitcake from Dan Lepard's 'Short and Sweet'. It tastes great (even when it's a bit on the dry side) but just as important is that the fruit doesn't need to be soaked first so it's entirely practical to make it whilst waiting for marmalade to set, and that it's a recipe that allows for plenty of variation.
Weigh out 1150g of dried fruit, it's worth keeping 250g of prunes (chopped) but otherwise whatever is to hand. This one has cranberries, dried cherries, sultanas, and left over candied oranges chopped into it. Add 200g of walnut halves or similar. Line an 18 cm cake tin with 3-4 layers of baking parchment, sides and bottom (another thing I like about this recipe is that it's just the right amount to make two 6 inch cakes or three 5 inch ones, the smaller tins don't seem to need as much lining)
Next measure 200g of caster sugar and 50ml of water, stick them in a heavy based saucepan and boil hard for 5-6 minutes until it's cooked to a dark reddish brown (don't stir, but give the occasional shake), remove from the heat and stir in 150ml of double cream (it boils like crazy, so be careful) then add 100g of mixed black treacle and honey (maple syrup works well as an alternative to the honey I'd just run out of) 4 teaspoons of mixed spice, 100g of butter, and optionally the grated zest of an orange and lemon (always at Christmas). When the butter has melted put the mixture in a bowl, add 250g of plain flour, quarter of a teaspoon of bicarb of soda, and 3 medium eggs, mix well and add the fruit and nuts.
A conventional oven should be 170 degrees C, gas mark 3, a fan oven seems to want to be about 140, the larger cake should take roughly two and a half hours to cook and it's done when a knife comes out basically clean.