Galloway’s has sold fruit cake ingredients for 75 years. Seems strange that the demand for glace fruit has increased when old-fashioned fruit cake takes such teasing. It’s one of those traditional affairs that we either love or hate. Did you know that Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding cake was fruit cake? After the wedding, sales of fruit cake and fruit cake ingredients soared.
Our 3rd annual fruit cake contest yielded 32 entries. Some were wrapped in plastic, others arrived in small festive tins. Kirsten Degenhardt, pastry chef and co-owner of The Sweet Spot bakery in Steveston, and myself opened all the cakes and noted their appearance.
We looked for a smooth, firm cake, not too dry, not too moist, with an even distribution of fruit and nuts, and a balanced proportion of cake and fruit. There were golden cakes and dark rich cakes. The cakes were all cut cleanly, without any crumbs and without catching the fruit – a sign that the cakes were well ripened.
We tasted for the perfect blend of spices, essences, sherry or brandy, and quality dried fruit. We tasted for balance, not an overpowering flavour or aroma of essences or spices, or alcohol.
What amazed us was that the cakes were all so different and yet they were made with basically the same ingredients. Some used brazil nuts and another added cocoa powder, but overall flour, sugar, spices, fruit and nuts were staples.
In the end two cakes stood out. Why? Not only did they have all the qualities we were looking for, but we both wanted another bite of each.
The winning cake belonged to Teresa White. She calls it “New Millenium Fruitcake” and while we were skeptical upon reading the ingredients which included candied papaya, our eyes widened as we savoured the rum-soaked fruits – golden raisins, currants, candied pineapple, candied papaya, candied lemon and orange peel, crystalized ginger, dried sour cherries) and pecans in a golden hazelnut-infused cake.
Second place – and it was a close second – went to Sharon St Michael for her apricot brandy-soaked fruit cake. Recently retired, Sharon finally had time to do some things she’s wanted to do for a long time, including making fruit cake. While purchasing all her ingredients at Galloway’s Richmond store, customer service rep Nate asked her if she was going to enter the cake in our contest. She hadn’t thought of it. The woman behind her encouraged her to do it saying that she’d won last year. Yes, Oly Dennis was buying ingredients for her prize-winning fruit cake. They continued their conversation in the parking lot and later Sharon thought that there can’t be a contest without cakes, so the next time she shopped at Galloway’s, she dropped off a piece. We are glad she did.
Sharon’s Christmas Cake
2 cups seedless raisins 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 cup currants 1 tsp. salt
1 ½ cups seeded raisins 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 ½ cups candied cherries, halved ½ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup cut-up dates ½ tsp. mace
1 ½ cups cut-up mixed candied fruit ¼ tsp. cloves
½ cup cut-up candied pineapple 1 cup butter
1 cup pecans 1 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp. finely chopped candied ginger 6 eggs
½ cup brandy ¼ cup molasses
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour 1/3 cup cold strong coffee
Allow two days for preparation. On first day, mix all fruits and pecans with brandy and soak overnight in a large covered bowl at room temperature.
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Line cake pans with greased heavy brown paper (I used one 8” square pan and one 4” square pan).
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and spices together over fruit mixture, mixing well so that all the fruit is well coated with flour.
Cream butter, add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in molasses.
Add fruit-and-flour mixture to creamed batter alternately with coffee, beginning and ending with fruit- and-flour mixture and mixing thoroughly after each addition.
Pour into prepared pans and bake 3 to 3 ½ hours. Put a pan of water in the oven to keep cake moist.
Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in centre of cake comes out dry. Or, press down lightly with palm of hand – if cake is done, it should spring back into shape leaving no imprint or depression. Cool on wire racks.
Note: To mellow cake and store without danger of moulding, cool completely, then peel off paper. Soak several thicknesses of cheesecloth in brandy. Wrap cake tightly in cloth, then in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Store for several weeks in cool dry location. If cloth dries out, moisten it again.