I was reading about walkers who were hiking along the Appalachian Trail and who had fruit cake mailed to them at stop points along the way. Traditional fruit cake keeps well, is sturdy and full of fruit and nuts – things that you find in trail and energy bars. The hikers figured that fruit cake made a really good energy bar.
I know fruit cake isn’t a popular thing these days but I’m hoping this recipe will change some minds, because really a good fruit cake is a wonderful thing. This one doesn’t include alcohol (although feel free to exchange the cold tea for brandy, and if you do this make sure you leave the fruit mixture to soak for a few days rather than just overnight) and I’ve added seeds. I’ve baked it as a slice so that you can more easily cut it into transportable bars and it also means it won’t take as long to cook as a traditional fruit cake.
Begin this recipe the day before
110g raisins, chopped
120g dates, chopped
140g prunes, chopped
275g glace fruit, chopped (I just use whatever I have in, although I like a mix rather than just one kind which can include apricots, ginger, pineapple, figs or cherries)
250g nuts, chopped (again I use what I have in but generally a mix of almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts or pecans are all good)
130g seeds (pepitas, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds all work)
Zest of 1 orange
2.5cm piece of fresh ginger (about a thumb sized piece), peeled and grated
110g caster sugar
60ml orange juice
125ml cold, strong tea
250g butter, softened
110g brown sugar
300g plain flour
Combine the chopped fruit, nuts and seeds into a large bowl. Mix in the orange rind and grated ginger.
Set a large heavy based saucepan over a low heat. Sprinkle in the caster sugar and cook it, without stirring until it starts to melt. When the sugar begins to melt start to stir and continue until the sugar is melted and is a golden brown.
Take the pan off the heat and stir in the orange juice. The caramel will solidify when you do this but return it to the heat and continue to stir it until the toffee pieces have melted. Take care not to boil the mixture, it will evaporate too much and you won’t have enough liquid.
Remove from the heat and then stir in the cold tea. Pour the mixture over the fruit, nuts and seeds and stir well, making sure the toffee mixture coats the fruit well. Cover the bowl and store in the refrigerator overnight. This gives the fruit time to soak up all of the liquid. You can leave it longer than this, just remember to stir it everyday.
Pre heat the oven to 150°celcius (or 130°celcius fan forced). Grease a 23 x 33cm (approximately) slice or lamington tin and line the base and sides with a couple of thicknesses of baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, taking care not to over mix, you want the egg to be just combined. Add this mixture to the bowl with the fruit, nuts and seeds and mix it by hand to combine the ingredients. Add the flour and again mix by hand until the flour is well incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 2 hours. Check your cake after this time. The time your cake takes to bake will vary quite a bit depending on the depth of the tin you have used. Bake further if necessary. Remove the cake from the oven, cover the tin with alfoil and leave the cake to cool in the tin overnight.
Remove the cake from the tin and cut into bars. The cake will keep well – for a couple of months but needs to be stored in the refrigerator.