Baking made simple · cake · It's a piece of cake

Seriously is it December! It’s not too late to feed a fruit cake for Christmas!

I love this time of year. That aromatic, gorgeous smell of fruit cake baking at home, puts you in that Christmas spirit. My husband is not a fan of fruit cake, but the smell of it baking in the oven, he just loves. Those fruity, cinnamon, nutmeg aromas that it releases. And I’m sure you will agree with me, on how delicious and juicy, the Spanish lemons and oranges are!! What better way to make a fruit cake, with such fresh ingredients. I’m just in awe of the stunning trees with the biggest and brightest colours I’ve seen. My favourite place to eat is in Estepona square, or Marbella, Plaza de los Naranjos (oranges). You can sit in the square surrounded by orange trees. What better way to have lunch or coffee with fresh aromas. Mmmmmm…..

Ok let’s get back to fruit cake! As we have just mentioned the fruit here is too good to waste. So grate off the lemon and orange zest. And squeeze those juices and let’s use it to soak your fruit for your cake in.

There are a few watch outs when baking a fruit cake. Especially when we don’t always bake one throughout the year. In the past, where I have got it wrong, I ended up either with a dry fruit cake or a cake with fruit all on the bottom, or the outside being baked more than the inside. Causing a raw middle or the sides to be over baked that the raisins got burnt!

To help prevent these problems, you need to take time not to forget a few vital preparation steps. Such as:

1. To prevent the mixed fruit drying out. Heat to the boil and simmer the mixed fruit with brandy or tea (for a non-alcoholic cake), for about 10 minutes. I add the lemon and orange juices and the zest to this too. Leave over night ideally or till cooled before you mix in with the cake mixture.

2. To help the cake bake at the right temperature throughout. Tie a damp cloth around your baking tin. This helps prevent the outside getting over baked.

3. Put a heating core in the middle of your tin, before adding the mixture. This helps heat your cake mixture evenly, throughout the tin. Preventing the middle of the cake being under baked compared to the outside.

4. Take the time to cut out baking parchment to put on the bottom and sides of your tin. As you will need to cool the cake in the tin later. So makes it a lot easier to take out after.

5. To prevent the fruit sinking to the bottom of the cake. Dust the fruit with flour just before you mix it in with the mixture.

6. That beautiful spice to your cake. If you can’t find mixed spices (I had this problem at the store). So I mixed up some ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon). And added bay leaves to the boiling fruit mixture.

7. Once your cake is cooled. Make a few holes on top with a toothpick. Wrap it in baking parchment and then foil. Feeding the cake with 2 tsp of brandy or strong tea once a week. Keep in an airtight container. Do not feed it for 24 hours before you want to cover with royal icing. This will prevent the icing from getting moist.

I am sure there are many other top tips on baking a fruit cake. Please share with me yours.

Here is the fruit cake recipe I use with apples as well!

INGREDIENTS

200g plain flour

200g butter

200g brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

2tsp vanilla extract

1tsp almond extract

1 juice of a lemon juice and grated zest

1 juice of an orange and grated zest

300g mixed fruit (sultanas, raisins)

2 apples grated

100ml tea or brandy

METHOD

1. In a pot add fruit, orange and lemon juice and zest (strain the juices through a sieve, to avoid pips going into the pot). Add the tea or brandy and a couple of bay leaves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool overnight.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius fan. Prepare your 20cm baking tin with grease proof paper, heating core and wrap the tin in a damp dishcloth or newspaper.

3. Mix the butter and sugar. Once mixed add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between.

4. Dust the fruit with flour. This is such an important step!!

5. Add the rest of the flour, spices, vanilla and almond extract. Mix well.

6. Spoon in the fruit mixture carefully.

7. Pour into the baking tin. Put in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. Until the centre of the cake is baked.

8. Leave in the baking tin till cooled. Once cool take out of the tin. Wrap in baking paper and then foil. Prick a few holes on top and feed the cake with 2 tsp of brandy or tea once a week.

Ready to enjoy for Christmas 😍

Baking made simple · cake · It's a piece of cake

It’s like Play-doh; Modelling Fondant

I just love using modelling fondant. It takes me back to my childhood…… playing with play-doh 😍. Remember those days, being creative and mixing up colours? Well you can still be a kid😁. I get my son involved too. When I’m making leaves, we spend time in the garden picking leaves together. It’s so simple, no tools needed! Just press (so the veins of the leaf appear) the leaf against rolled out green fondant. Cut around it, fold it down the middle and let it dry upside down. Use a folded paper for it to rest against.

Not only is it fun to work with, but you get to use it, to decorate your cakes. I tend to make mine a week before I actually need it. This gives me time to play around with the colours, shapes and sizes. Without stressing about baking and icing the cake. It is also a great way, to help make a cake look complete and alive.

To help you use fondant. I have pulled together a few tips:

1. Make sure it is modelling fondant you are using, and not fondant you use to roll out on a cake. The latter fondant, will not harden and may collapse in the heat. It can also feel sticky and difficult to keep its shape.

2. You can buy different colours of modelling fondant. But a lot of the time, you will need to mix colours to make the desired figures. You can mix two different coloured fondants together, to give the colour you want. Or add a little gel paste food colouring. To ensure you get an equal colour throughout, roll the fondant in a ball in your hands and keep stretching it and rolling it into a ball until you have an equal colour throughout.

3. Once I have opened a packet, if I don’t use all the fondant. I wrap it really well in cling film. This keeps it airtight and reusable. If you don’t do this you will have fondant that is gritty, and unusable.

4. It’s fine if it feels hard to start with. Don’t worry as you work it with your warm hands it will become softer. If it feels too soft to work with, just pop it in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

5. If you do not like your model. You can just take it apart or bits off, and start again. That’s the beauty of modelling fondant 😅

Look at my Pudsey bear the first time I did it. He came out so fat, so I managed to slim him down.

6. Once you are happy with your model; to harden it, let it air dry. Sometimes that is not enough. So pop it in the oven with the light on for about 10-15mins. Make sure you don’t put the heat on.

7. Store them in an airtight container. They should stay hard and easy to put on your cake.

Check out my video on how to make roses fondant roses. Have fun!! You can do this with the kids… as long as they are not eating it at the same time.