Fruit Cake - the secret ingredient
September 20, 2014 3:19 AM   Subscribe

The secret ingredient in Geoff Beattie’s rich dark fruit cake. Need a heartwarming story? "Geoff Beattie had arrived. Show after show, city after city, state after state, word began to spread about the mysterious widowed dairy farmer who was toppling the greats of Australian show cooking." Might you or someone you know have had a similar experience?
posted by gusset (43 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
Worth bracing yourself through Murdoch's press to read, thanks gusset. (Have we met?)

The recipe for people who loathe Murdoch or have trouble accessing without registering:
Geoff Beattie’s Rich Dark Fruit Cake

Ingredients

2 x 350g packets raisins

3 x 350g packets sultanas

1 x 350g packet currants

60g cherries

60g mixed peel

120g blanched almonds

Juice of 1 orange

4 tablespoons rum

4 tablespoons sherry

500g butter

500g brown sugar

10 eggs

1 tablespoon treacle

1 dessertspoon coffee essence

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 tablespoon lemon essence

60g self-raising flour

600g plain flour

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of mixed spice

Method

Soak fruit overnight. Cut raisins, and any large sultanas or cherries. Put the rum and sherry over the fruit, and the juice of the orange. Mix well, leaving almonds to add next day. Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs. Beat well after each egg. Add treacle and essence. Add dry ingredients. Lastly, add fruit mixture. Mix well. Bake in a 25-28cm sq tin, lined with Glad Bake. Cook at 150°C for two hours, then reduce to 120°C for another four hours or until cooked. Wrap in heavy towel and leave to cool.
posted by taff at 3:34 AM on September 20, 2014 [8 favorites]


... But there's a big old passage about how he soaks the fruit for a ridiculous amount of time! It's right there: two weeks or a month, not a day!
posted by curuinor at 3:46 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Spoiler alert! His secret is here. For 24 years he’s been cooking for her.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:48 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


We in the U.S. don't have access to sultanas, so I'm pretty sure those are the tears of concubines kept in the palace of the Sultan.

Apparently readily available overseas.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:51 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Lovely story. I finally hit the blue ribbon for my knitting in 2013, but I'm embarrassed that it doesn't have anywhere near the feeling and depth behind it as this.

(And I've met gusset!)
posted by web-goddess at 3:51 AM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


twoleffeet: they go by a lot of names, including the Thompson Seedless. I've seen them in grocery stores a bit, but I live in California, ymmv
posted by curuinor at 4:29 AM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


The secret ingredient is water. Pure, filtered water.

And a little LSD.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:36 AM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


twoleftfeet: i was going to suggest upping your raisin quota - but as curuinor has pointed out - different names. if i were in the USA, i'd be using or finding a substitute for sun maid raisins - and combining golden, baking, jumbo, and currants for the ultimate dried fruit combo.
posted by gusset at 4:43 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


And a little LSD

Do I add the LSD before or after the treacle and the coffee essence?

Sometimes these recipes aren't clear about this.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:45 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I need some clarification. What kind of cherries? Fresh or dried? Sweet or sour? What measurement is a dessert spoon? If I don't have self raising flour what do I substitute? Mixed peel is? Mixed spice, what is the mix of spices?

I am eager to try the recipe but I needs more info. Also, does he have a cookbook?
posted by jadepearl at 5:01 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


A dessert spoon is 10 g (2 tsp) and self raising flour is 1 teaspoon baking powder per cup of flour. Mixed peel is candied peel and this is mixed spice. I don't know about the cherries.
posted by shelleycat at 5:03 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


The recipe for people who loathe Murdoch

That should be its own dish. Head of News Corp served with bile and bad blood.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:13 AM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


cherries = glace cherries, or you might know them as candied cherries, which are routinely used in baking. in australia, they're located in the baking aisle, with brand names like big sister. amazon has glace cherries.
posted by gusset at 5:45 AM on September 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


I've been to the NY state fair several times now, and the baking and preserves sections have been sadly lackluster compared to Australia's Royal Easter Show and the Ekka. Wonder why that is?
posted by zamboni at 7:30 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sultanas are raisins made from white grapes, preferably Muscat grapes.

Coffee essence though? Don't have that here. I always used to soak the fruit - cake fruit in Jameson's whiskey. Gives excellent flavor.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:39 AM on September 20, 2014


The secret ingrediant is booze. It's always the secret ingrediant, no matter what the dish.
posted by KingEdRa at 7:41 AM on September 20, 2014 [9 favorites]


Oh.. There's something in my eye..
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:43 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Damnit, fruitcake should only make you cry if you get it as a Christmas present.*


*Actually, I love fruitcake. Please send me all your unloved fruitcake.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:44 AM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was so sure the secret ingredient was going to be human flesh.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:46 AM on September 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


The secret ingredient in fruitcake is eating something else.

Long before I was born, someone on my dad's side of the family gave someone else a fruitcake for Christmas. It festered in a cupboard somewhere before being regifted the next year. Apparently, that damn thing made its way around the family for a good thirty years--even made it to this side of the pond once.

I believe at this point it's classified as a biological weapon.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:49 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


*Actually, I love fruitcake. Please send me all your unloved fruitcake.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:44 AM on September 20
[

Eponysterical :)
posted by PlantGoddess at 7:57 AM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


We tried to make a fruitcake one christmas in a fit of culinary madness and ended up drinking 3x the alcohol and sticking the dried fruit bits to the faces of those who passed out the earliest while eating pancakes made from the rest of the recipe.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:59 AM on September 20, 2014 [5 favorites]


Man, I have never found that tired-ass "funny" complaining about being given a Christmas fruitcake more ill-mannered, cheap, and irritating than after reading this story.

First of all, I love even mediocre fruitcake; but more importantly, somebody made or bought you a pretty fancy gift and your reaction is to be snidely ungrateful about it, in public? This shitty clichéd joke needs to die.
posted by El Mariachi at 8:06 AM on September 20, 2014 [11 favorites]


A slice of fruitcake with butter is delicious. Want better? Sub in cheddar cheese or similar for butter.

Kid you not. Sounds maybe a bit Yorkshire, but quite spectacular in practice.
posted by Wolof at 8:09 AM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


What would not be immediately apparent is that Geoff Beattie’s life story is buried inside the cake; that the cook’s greatest attribute is patience and a remarkable sense for time frames: how long a cherry needs to soak; how long a cake needs to bake; how long it takes a man to fall in love; how long it takes a heart to heal.


Sweet article, and it makes me want to try some fruitcake.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:10 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


This makes me want to make fruitcake. I got no qualms with boozy fruity spicy cake.

However, I do not recommend trying the Hostess Holiday Fruitcake. A coworker and I did several years ago and the experience was not good. (OMG we look so young! A lot has changed in six years.)
posted by misskaz at 8:16 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean I'm not sure why we thought buying factory-made fruitcake from Walgreens was a good idea.
posted by misskaz at 8:19 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't put in that damned peel, or that nasty-ass citron. Chop up some dried apricots, instead, and maybe some of those Craisin things.
posted by cookie-k at 8:31 AM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry. I seem to have something unexpectedly in my eye.

Wow, I really didn't think that article was going to do this to me, but it did. Thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 8:56 AM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mmm...fruitcake and cheese. Cheddar is good, but try Wensleydale too - the tangy crumbliness is a great match for the rich sweetness of the cake.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:17 AM on September 20, 2014 [4 favorites]


Liz Harfull's 'The Blue Ribbon Cookbook' & 'The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook' are said to compile the best of recipes (and stories) from award winners at the many many country shows in Oz. [review article from May this year]
posted by peacay at 9:20 AM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


What kind of cherries? Fresh or dried? Sweet or sour?
Glacé cherries, as described above.

What measurement is a dessert spoon?
10ml, equal to two teaspoons.

If I don't have self raising flour what do I substitute?
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mixed peel is?
Candied mixed citrus peel - usually bought in jars, but here's a link where an American makes some themselves.

Mixed spice, what is the mix of spices?
Wikipedia says "Mixed spice ... is a British blend of sweet spices, similar to the pumpkin pie spice used in the United States. Cinnamon is the dominant flavour, with nutmeg and allspice".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 11:27 AM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


Aside from the coffee essence, that looks to me like a fairly standard Christmas cake recipe.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:06 PM on September 20, 2014


This recipe reminds me a lot of my grandma's fruitcake back in India, made every year for Christmas. She also did the soaking of dried fruits in alcohol at least a month in advance of the actual baking. I loved nothing more than sneaking a little of the soaked fruit or licking the bowls with the boozy batter. It was a real labor of love, considering the tiny unreliable oven she had. But man was the finished product amazing! I've never understood the fruitcake haters.
posted by peacheater at 12:08 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


What is also interesting is that it is not misted with booze over a length of time. Is it Australian style that the cake is not kept for a time while it takes on more alcohol? I read the recipe and while modeling it in my head think, "needs to be bathed in brandy over several weeks."
posted by jadepearl at 4:42 PM on September 20, 2014


Liz Harfull's 'The Blue Ribbon Cookbook' & 'The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook' are said to compile the best of recipes (and stories) from award winners at the many many country shows in Oz. [review article from May this year]
I have this, and the stories are good, if a bit heavy on "for eight generations the Smiths have been taking out all the cooking prizes, year after endless year. The younger generation is no exception, with young Tarquin, aged 3, winning the Best Cake in Show each year for the last five years, putting to shame any number of hardened show cooks" etc. It's a bit tedious. The recipes aren't as iconic as I was hoping for, there's a lot of mentions of prize winning standards, but many of the recipes are a little bit flight of fancy-ish. I tried the scone recipe yesterday - it's a bit heavy on the bicarb, but super easy to mix up, I'll give you that.

But I adore fruitcake, and I don't think I've ever eaten one I didn't like.

I don't know about the bathing the cake in booze thing, either, but I wonder if show cakes are specifically not supposed to be bathed in alcohol, thus covering up any deficiencies in flavour?
posted by thylacinthine at 5:48 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


You wrap the fruitcake in booze-drenched muslin, that's what you do. Making it at least three weeks ahead. (There is a bit of a disagreement amongst the immediate family's fruitcake-making bakers about whether to soak the fruit as well, but we all agree on the right way to wrap them when they're done.) Also, definitely make your own candied peel. Fluorescent fake peel is the very devil.
posted by instamatic at 6:30 PM on September 20, 2014


Perhaps it is the self-selecting audience; an enlightened Filterian take on the fruitcake was unexpected and refreshing. Its an old tradition in my family, dense loaves that get picked over in sessions over the weeks. I too want to troll out the family recipe tonight...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:36 PM on September 20, 2014


--It's a bit tedious. [..] The recipes aren't as iconic as I was hoping for--

Thanks thylacinthine. I had been wondering whether or not to bother with buying it. The article about the book(s) links up a couple of the recipes which don't look very special. I might try the ginger cake this week just to see.
(personally I'm besotted with Belinda Jeffery's 'Mix and Bake' - I've tried about 50% of the recipes and they are all really really wonderful)
On a side note, although I make a fruit cake once a month as a stand in for my mum (who's a bit too old to cook now) to go in the local RSL club bake sale, I actually dislike them a LOT on the eating front)
posted by peacay at 5:05 AM on September 21, 2014


Here's my favorite recipe for fruitcake....

2 x 350g packets raisins

1 x 350g packet currants

60g cherries

120g blanched almonds

Juice of 1 orange

20 Kg butter

20 Kg sugar

1 tsp mixed spice.

---

...but I'm too afraid to try it.
posted by storybored at 12:45 PM on September 21, 2014


Every winter holiday season I'm struck with a pang of missing a friend of the family who made the most delicious fruitcake. The kind that once you've eaten it, you wind up perpetually giving the evil side-eye to people making "fruitcake sucks" jokes.

I think I need to seek out a good fruitcake recipe and make it in her honor this year. Starting suitably early enough for the soaking, of course.
posted by Lexica at 9:20 PM on September 26, 2014


Ingredients

2 x 350g packets raisins

3 x 350g packets sultanas

1 x 350g packet currants



Is that amount of sultanas / raisins / currents right?

I tried assembling them tonight - this photo shows 375g sultanas, 375g raisins, 375g currants and the cherries/ mixed peel.

Big bowl of dried fruit - banana for scale

It seems like ANOTHER 1.3kg of sultanas/raisins would be ridiculously too much?!?!?
posted by trialex at 4:23 AM on September 27, 2014


Taking a look at the proportions of other dry ingredients I think the ratio of fruit needs to be high. Now, what is puzzling is that the amount of alcohol is not enough, I think for soaking the fruit for the expected weeks. I would be using pints to soak and be stirring the fruit every few days to even the soak.
posted by jadepearl at 6:18 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


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