My inspiration for what to bake this week came from my current reading material. I am reading “In The Company Of Cheerful Ladies”, which is book six in the series of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I love the escapism of these novels set in Botswana and the wry humour. I also love the numerous mentions of cake, much adored by the “traditionally built” heroine Precious Ramotswe.
Mma Potokwani is a formidable woman who runs the orphanage. She is known for using her cunning and persistence to get local people and businesses to provide help and services for free. If ever she cuts someone a large slice of fruitcake they know she is about to make an unpalatable request of them, but the fruitcake is so good they cannot resist.
I’m not a huge fan of the heavy fruitcakes served up as Christmas or celebration cakes. I love raisins and sultanas and this fruitcake caught my eye because of the addition of pineapple….lots of pineapple. Pineapple upside down cakes are cropping up all over the blogosphere at the moment; I adore them but have already blogged about one . This cake sated both my pineapple needs and my need to emulate all the wonderful characters I’ve been reading about!
This was the passage I read on the train, during my daily commute, that made me want to make a fruitcake more than anything else this week:
[Mma Potokwani muses that] ‘Maybe there are people who would say that I eat too much cake.’
‘But you do not eat too much, do you?’ observed Mma Ramotswe.
Mma Potokwani’s response came quickly. ‘No, I do not. I do not eat too much cake,’ She paused and looked wistfully at her now emptying plate. ‘Sometimes I would like to eat too much cake. That is certainly true. Sometimes I am tempted.’
Mma Ramotswe sighed. ‘We are all tempted, Mma. We are all tempted when it comes to cake.’
‘That is true,’ said Mma Potokwani sadly. ‘There are many temptations in the life, but cake is probably one of the biggest of them.’
Later, when they have both finished their cake:
‘Temptation is very difficult,’ said Mma Ramotswe quietly. ‘I do not always resist it. I am not a strong woman in that respect.’
‘I am glad you said that,’ said Mma Potokwani. ‘I am not strong either. For example, right at the moment, I am thinking of cake.’
‘And so am I,’ confessed Mma Ramotswe.
Mma Potokwani stood up and shouted to the girl outside. ‘Two more pieces of cake, please. Two big slices.’
Two women after my own heart!
Pineapple fruit cake is fantastic! The tropical smell of the pineapple simmering on the hob all mixed in with the sweet dried fruit and toffee-like brown sugar was heavenly. The pineapple chunks and juice produce a super moist cake that will keep for days....unless you have Mma Ramotswe and Mma Potokwani round for tea!
The texture was definitely at the lighter end of the fruitcake scale; I’d say it was halfway between a rock bun and fruitcake.
One thing I would add – make sure you give yourself enough time to make this cake. Normally one just looks at the cooking time and adds a few minutes prep time on and that will suffice. This cake is simple to make but you have to bring the ingredients to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes then leave to cool before adding the flour. I’d allow about an hour on top of the cooking time for these additional stages. Here are the fruits after simmering away and plumping up with pineapple juice:
185g soft brown sugar (I used dark brown but light brown would work too)
375g mixed dried fruit and peel (I used sultanas and raisins)
125g glace cherries, chopped (I didn’t fancy these so added more sultanas)
125g unsalted butter, diced into cubes
185g pineapple chunks (fresh or tinned, I used tinned)
185ml pineapple juice
2 eggs, beaten
250g self raising flour
Preheat the oven to 170˚C/fan oven 150˚C/325˚F/Gas mark 3.
Line a 20cm springform round tin with baking paper.
Place all the ingredients except for the eggs and flour into a large saucepan and mix.
Gently bring to the boil then, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Leave to cool.
Add the beaten eggs and flour and mix thoroughly.
Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.
Bake for approximately 1 ½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Mine took exactly 1 ½ hours.
Place the tin on a cooling rack and leave until you can safely handle the tin.
Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely on the wire rack.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.