Jane’s Fruit Cake

Why is it Jane’s? Well I can’t answer that, but it was the fruit cake that my mum has been asking me to bake for a while. So I finally gave in and decided to give it a try.

I can’t help but love Mary Berry’s instructions – they generally consist of mixing everything together in no particular order and bunging it all in the oven! Great for everyone else but unfortunately not for a perfectionist like me.

So instead of throwing everything in, I started by mixing the butter and the muscovado sugar, then added the eggs and buttermilk and finally the wholemeal flour.  I did question what the wholemeal flour would add (or detract) to the recipe, but I have full faith in Mary Berry and will do (almost) anything she says – or writes.

Finally, I stirred in the currents and sultanas and began to pour the batter into my cake dish.  This was when I realised that my 23cm-diameter cake tin was definitely too short for all the batter I had.  Cue the very speedy preparation of another, smaller, cake tin – and hey presto we have a mama cake and a baby cake.

I managed to fit the cakes into the oven and put the timer on for … 3hours?!?!?! Of course this is always the last thing I read and I managed to pick the cake with longest cooking time ever. * Sigh *

I took one last quick look at the recipe as I sat on the sofa with a cup of tea when I realised that I had to sprinkle the almonds on top of the cake before I put it in the oven.  Oops.

I ran back to the kitchen (I’m not joking, I actually skidded around two corners!), ripped open the packet of flaked almonds, and held my breath while I opened the oven door, quickly sprinkled almonds on the batter, and slammed it shut again.  I strolled back into the living room, sat down looking thoroughly pleased with myself, and found two parents with their mouths hanging open. I told them I forgot to sprinkle the almonds, which, apparently, wasn’t enough explanation for my dramatics.  I then explained that cakes sink if you open the oven door too much and even with this perfectly rational argument, I got nothing. So I gave up and settled down with my tea and my book.

Jane’s Fruit Cake

About 3 hours and a good few chapters later, I checked on the cakes to make sure they were dark enough, springy to the touch, and that they passed the skewer test.  Thankfully the cakes passed all three and I got the bigger one out for the taste test with the family.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of fruit cakes – I just don’t understand the concept of dried fruit, in general, and specifically in cake. Despite this, the cake was actually OK – definitely not my favourite – but the muscovado sugar added a really nice flavour and the wholemeal flour gives a nice texture. The parents, who happen love fruit cakes, devoured it so I guess that’s a good sign. I did plan to ask them to describe it to me but they went straight to bed claiming exhaustion for having to wait so long for my baked goods.

Why Is It Called Madeira?

This is the first question that came to mind when I made this cake.  At first I figured it must come from the Madeira Islands … apparently not! According to the internet (i.e. Wikipedia), the recipe originated in England in the 18th/19th century and was named after Madeira wine, which was served with the cake and popular at the time. Huh … You learn a new thing every day.

History lesson over, I chose the recipe because I was intrigued by the amount of ground almonds it used … OK, you got me, I actually picked it because I had nothing else in my cupboard and this cake doesn’t need anything random!

So I turned on my oven and prepared my cake tin with greaseproof paper (the typical Mary Berry way).  The recipe said to bung it all in and mix it – which I’m very wary of – so I used my standard method.  I firstly beat together the butter, sugar and lemon and added in the eggs.  Then I added the almonds and sifted the flour before mixing for a bit longer till it all came together.

This went into the tin and in the oven for around 30 minutes.  The recipe then says to take the cake out and put some citron peel on top before putting it back in for another 10-15minutes. Naturally I didn’t have any, in fact, I didn’t know what it was and guessed it to be any citrus type fruit. So…  I used some orange peel … Ah well!

Once the cake was ready and the kitchen smelt like roasted almonds, I took the cake out to cool and served it up with tea (obviously I didn’t know you had to serve it with wine at the time).


The cake is actually really delicious, it’s quite dense and could potentially be mistaken for dry; it actually reminded me of a few Iranian desserts, which are meant to be accompanied with a drink – normally tea. The almond wasn’t overwhelming but complimented the cake really well. Mary Berry does it again, she’s fast becoming my favourite cookbook.