The book contains the following note: “Twelfth Day is 6 January and is, according to old custom, a day of kings, cakes and wassailing. A Twelfth Day cake was traditionally lavishly decorated with colored confectionery designed as stars, palaces and dragons, and should have a bean and a pea inside; the person who receives the bean is king for the night and the one who receives the pea is queen.”
1 cup raisins
1 cup sultanas (yellow raisins)
1 cup currants
3/4 cup pitted dried cherries
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter at room temperature (do not let it become oily)
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup candied orange or other citrus peel
3/4 cup (3 to 4 ounces) pecan halves (set aside some to decorate the top of the cake if you like)
3/8 cup Madeira (my preference), port, or brandy for the cake plus a cup or so for soaking the fruit; you will need more for moistening the cake after it is baked
To soften the raisins, currants, and cherries, soak them for at least half an hour or overnight in Madeira, or a mixture of Madeira and hot water. If you are making a nonalcoholic cake, you can simply pour hot or boiling water over them. By the way, feel free to change the proportions if you like raisins better than currants, for instance, or substitute other dried fruits of your preference. And don’t hesitate to increase the spices.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line the bottom of a tube pan (the type that has a bottom that lifts out) with a round of greased parchment paper or waxed paper or foil. This is easier if you cut the paper to fit the bottom, then grease it with shortening or oil, and then put it in the pan. Also cut a collar of paper about 3 inches tall to fit around the inside of the pan; don’t grease it.
Sift flour, baking powder, and spices together into a bowl and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding about a tablespoon of the flour mixture after each egg. Then add the remaining flour and beat with the mixer until smooth. With a spoon or spatula, fold in the fruit, pecans (except the ones for the top), and Madeira.
Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared tube pan and bake until a knife blade inserted in the cake comes out clean and the sides of the cake have begun to pull away from the pan, about 1 1/2 hours. (I use a tube pan that measures 10 inches across the top. The suggested cooking time may be slightly different with a different size pan.) Cover the pan loosely with foil after about 30 minutes to prevent the cake from browning too much. Don’t overbake or the cake will be very hard.
Cool the cake, still in the pan, on a rack for 20 to 30 minutes. Then grasp the tube and lift the cake out. Peel the waxed paper away from the outside and continue cooling on the rack until entirely free from heat. Then remove the cake from the tube portion of pan. To decorate with the reserved pecans, make a light sugar syrup and dip the bottoms in it before pressing them onto the top. (I have not tried baking with the pecans on top for fear of overbrowning them.)
Traditionally, a fruitcake is made up several weeks or months in advance so that it can be soaked with brandy or a fortified wine such as Madeira. The flavor slowly infuses into the cake and turns it from just another dessert into something special. Poke holes in the cake with a fine skewer and drizzle it with heated but not boiled brandy or Madeira. You may use 1/4 to 1 cup. Pour it very slowly, almost drop by drop.
To store the cake, soak pieces of clean cotton cloth in the wine and wrap them around the top and sides of the cake. Then wrap the cake in foil and put in a tin with a tight-fitting lid. It will keep like this for months in a cool place (not refrigerated). Periodically unwrap it and drizzle on more Madeira. Recipe makes 1 cake.
The Cook Book was copyrighted in England by Mitchell Beazley Publishers Limited in 1980 and the text copyrighted in England by Conran Ink Limited in 1980. The Cook Book was first published in the United States the same year by Crown Publishers.