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Belgian Cherry and Almond Fruit Cake

Here is another recipe from the Hairy Bikers (Dave Myers and Si King, The Hairy Bikers Ride Again, pp. 178-9). I have baked this cake a couple of times now with good results.

Ingredients

250g butter

150g dark brown sugar

150g wholemeal flour

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

180ml Kriek (Belgian cherry beer)

100g chopped almonds

100g raisins

100g dried cherries

200g glacé cherries

2 tbsp apricot jam

Method

In order not to waste oven heat, I find it easiest to start by weighing out the ingredients into a number of bowls. The brown sugar and butter go together and, in another bowl the two types of flour, baking powder, ginger and cinnamon. Keep the vanilla extract to one side but mix the eggs and 150ml of the beer in a jug. Also, prepare a third bowl with the almonds, raisins, dried cherries and half the glacé cherries (some whole and some halved). If you lack enough of certain ingredients, you can substitute similar things – when I made this yesterday I needed 10g of currants to make up the raisins and the dried cherries came in a 75g pack so I threw in 25g of sultanas to round them out. Finally, chop the rest of the glacé cherries in half and line the base of  a greased 23cm cake tin with baking parchment.

Now turn the oven on to 160ºC. The book says 180ºC but my fan oven is fairly fierce and it was a bit overdone on my first attempt at 170ºC. Cream the butter and sugar together; a mixer might help but used a wooden spoon and some elbow grease. Sieve in the flour and other dry ingredients — the wholemeal bran may not fit through your sieve but can be tipped in on top — and mix together, adding in the vanilla essence. The oven should be at temperature by this point. If not, have a breather as the next stage needs to be completed at a reasonable pace before introducing the cake into the heat.

Add the egg and beer mixture and stir together. The acid in the beer will be starting to react with the baking powder, creating the bubbles which will keep the cake fairly light. Add the combined fruit, pour into the tin and decorate the top with the remaining cherries. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes (mine ended up with an hour and half in total, with a couple of tests using a clean knife in the last quarter of an hour).

Once out of the oven, leave on a cooling rack in the tin. As the cake cools to the point you can handle it, mix the apricot jam with 2 tbsp (ie. 30ml) of the beer in a saucepan. Hopefully you read ahead to this bit and did not drink it earlier! Heat to a gentle boil and then simmer until the liquid starts to reduce. Turn off the heat and let it stand while you release the cake from the tin and then use the contents of the saucepan to glaze the top of the cake.

The beer (you can finish the rest of it now!) has quite a sour taste and tones down the sweetness of the other ingredients to produce a result that is satisfyingly complex. It probably also keeps quite well although, with sharing the results with friends, we haven’t yet got past five days!

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