About this recipe:I love a good heavy, moist, flavoursome fruit cake in the autumn and winter. There are many tea-soaked fruit cake recipes out there, but this is my own version: a bit darker and richer than some, but not as lengthy or complex as a proper traditional Christmas cake. I also wanted something I could make on a weekday evening between finishing dinner and bedtime, so I've adapted the soaking method to make it a bit quicker. Using the no-cooling method, it takes me 1 hour and 20 minutes including preparation and baking, which is pretty speedy for a fruit cake.
Grease a large cake tin (a deep 20cm diameter round tin or a 1.5kg loaf tin) and preheat the oven to 170 C / Gas 3.
Make a large mug of strong tea, without milk. I like Earl Grey, but you can use ordinary tea or even experiment with herbal teas.
Weigh the butter, sugar and mixed fruit into a large saucepan, add the tea, and bring to the boil on the hob. Once it reaches the boil, turn it down and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes.
While the mixture is simmering, add the spices (don't bother measuring them: a good shake each of nutmeg and ginger, and a hefty shake plus a bit more of the cinnamon). Then ransack your kitchen for other delicious additions, if liked (see footnote for ideas).
If you have plenty of time, you can take the mixture off the heat and let it soak and cool down for an hour or two. However, if you are trying to get the cake in the oven and out again before bedtime (or teatime...) just press straight on with the recipe (the no-cooling method). If you are doing this, DO make sure you have greased the tin and switched on the oven before you move to the next step, because it's a quick-moving race to the oven from here!
Measure the flour into a large mixing bowl, and beat the eggs in a cup. Pour the entire fruit and tea mixture onto the flour, followed by the eggs, mix swiftly, and pour into the greased cake tin. Level the top and get it in the oven ASAP. Remember that if you didn't let the mixture cool, its heat will immediately start to cook the eggs and the flour, so you do need to stir it quickly and get it into the tin nice and fast and straight into that oven.
Bake the cake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. (Note that if you let the mixture cool, you will almost certainly need to bake it for quite a lot longer. Similar recipes suggest about 2 hours. Use your eyes and your trusty skewer!)
Let the cake cool slightly before removing it from the tin. If you can restrain yourself, allow it to cool completely and ideally mature for a day or two before eating. You can add marzipan and icing if you wish, serve it with custard as a pudding, or have it just as it is with a nice cup of tea.
Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, blanched almonds, dried apricots, dates, candied peel, stem ginger in syrup, apple, small nuggets of marzipan, a glug of brandy, a squeeze of lemon juice, a glug of orange juice, a spoonful of marmalade, a spoonful of black treacle.
These can all be added to the simmering mixture in step 4. For the fruit and nuts, you will probably want at least a handful of each item in order to notice their presence. They should also be chopped. If you are adding marmalade or treacle, you might consider cutting the brown sugar from 75g to 50g. Likewise, if you are adding a lot of the above extras, you may want to add less dried fruit (closer to 300g than 500g).