Special fruitcake

My mum made the best fruitcake. She was a cake decorator which meant elaborately detailed ornate wedding cakes, but also birthday cakes. There were four of us kids and when we had a birthday cake it was always iced fruitcake, so at least 4 times a year I got to eat mum's spicy fruity recipe. I remember innocently feeling genuinely sorry for other kids when I went to their birthday parties and they had 'lousy sponge cakes'.

In my adult life I've always had my radar up for good fruit cakes. For many years now I get at least one Lions fruitcake at Christmas time; some occasions, including for example bush walks, are for me, impoverished without a good piece of fruitcake and a cup of tea. Apart from the 'staple' Lions fruitcake, my other go-to is YummyKitchen's Celebration Cake which the major supermarkets stock around Christmas time.

I have tried once or twice to bake my own, and have been disappointed (good cakes but not what I was aiming for) until I tried a recipe I found online last year because it seemed as close to the style of the Celebration Cake as I'd found. I've adapted it significantly to suit my preferences which include less cake mixture and chunkier fruit and nuts.

Be warned though, as expensive as fruitcakes are to buy, this will be more expensive to make that buying something off the shelf.

(I should also say that I am clearly not doing this in the van; we made a dash back south to avoid the risk of being caught in a Covid hotspot) Oven is not good enough to try and I don't carry multiple baking dishes. But I needed somewhere to capture this and this site works ... )

The incentive to give this cake another crack was to give one to our wonderful neighbours Sue and Barry, who also sampled and loved the first effort. They are everyone's dream neighbours, going over and above to keep an eye on our place when we are away in the van, which is often!


This recipe made 3 decent size cakes.


soaked fruit mixture

  • 1x 375g packet of raisins
  • 1x 375 pk sultanas
  • 1x 150g pk dried apricots, chopped roughly
  • 1x 150g pk dates, chopped roughly
  • 1x 150g pk dried peaches, chopped roughly
  • 150g dried figs, chopped roughly
  • 500ml spiced rum (I used Sailor Jerry's 'cause I usually have some in the cupboard)

    Dry ingredients
    • 1½ cups flour
    • ½ tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 tsp ground ginger
    • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1 tsp salt
    Wet ingredients (1)
    • 1 tbsp lemon zest
    • 1 tbsp orange zest
    • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
    • 1x Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
    • 1x 200g pk almonds
    • 100g crystallised ginger, coarsely chopped
    Wet ingredients (2)
    • ¾ cup raw sugar
    • 115g unsalted butter (room temp)
    • 5x eggs (room temp)
    • 1 part apricot conserve to 1 part water

    • In a large mixing bowl, soak the fruit in the rum overnight ... all the liquid should get absorbed. Stir as frequently as you can to mix the fruit that is immersed.
    • pre-heat oven to 150°C (fan forced) or 170°C
    • Mix together dry ingredients
    • Use a mixer to cream the butter and sugar until smooth
    • add the eggs one at a time (low setting)
    • add the flour mixture in 'batches' and mix until smooth
    • add the cake mixture to the fruit and mix through
    • distribute among baking tins about 30mm deep
    • bake for 50mins
    • Allow to cool a bit before turning out onto cooling racks
    • Heat the glaze mixture in a small saucepan and simmer until glistening before brushing on to the top of the cooling cakes


    Pots and Vans on Instagram

    Col Duthie on Instagram