AFTER trawling seemingly every shop in Birmingham looking for glacier fruits to decorate my first ever homemade Christmas cake, I returned with little more than a bag of Brazil nuts. Hardly the enticing selection of festive fruits I'd had in mind.
I seemed to remember that House of Fraser's food hall selling individual glacier fruits behind their confectionery counter, but all they had yesterday were pre-packed trays of semi-dried fruits, including some crude-looking peaches, rather unsuitable to top the family cake.
So I admitted defeat and instead set to work with what I already had in store: Brazil nuts, walnuts, blanched almonds, glacier cherries and a handful or two of cranberries.
The cake, which I baked a week or so ago and had wrapped in tin foil, turned out lighter than I expected, a far cry from the dense, black treacle-coloured sponge my gran used to make. However, a nose to its surface revealed an enticing spicy, sweet smell, so I was satisfied it'd probably taste okay. Removing its domed top, to provide a flat work surface, (it actually looks like more of an Italian-style Panettone cake) further dispelled my concerns. Moist and fruity, it was the type of cake you could easily eat more than a slice of.
It's a tiny, just five inches in diameter, so covering it wasn't difficult. First melted apricot jam brushed across the surface, then I followed Nigella Lawson's tips of fitting the fruit and nuts together as if piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Then more jam.
And, even though I'd dreamed of something more exotic, it actually turned out pretty well. I'll upload a picture of the end result when I get the chance (and the ability).
The recipe I used was from www.circlecity.co.uk, and I have included it below. I used half measures and this filled my five inch tin plus made three cake bars which I've decorated in the same way and plan to give as pressies! I only baked it for about two hours in the end.
If you know where all the glacier fruit have gone, please let me know... Or maybe I am just getting old and glacier fruit will be something banished to memories of Christmas past?
12oz Plain flour
1 Teaspoon mixed spice
4oz Ground almonds
8oz Raisins (stoned)
4oz Cherries (halved)
8oz Soft brown sugar
6 Eggs, beaten with 8 tablespoons of milk
1 Tablespoon black treacle
(1) Mix flour, spice and ground almonds together.
(2) Clean and mix fruit.
(3) Beat butter and sugar to a cream.
(4) Beat the eggs and milk together.
(5) Mix all these ingredients together.
(6) Add the fruit last. Bake for about 4 hrs.
First hour in a moderate oven 180°C (Gasmark 4), then slow oven at 150°C (Gasmark 2).