My adoration of Peggy Porschen’s fruit cake is well documented in my post here. I resolved then and there that this was a recipe I needed to try out for myself – thankfully Peggy has penned a great set of cookbooks over the years which chronicle her cupcake creations.
Boutique Baking is the latest in the series – it contains a wide range of treats, cupcakes, layer cakes and other sophisticated baked goods. The book is nicely set out, with great photography and separate guides explaining some of the more detailed techniques. In terms of difficulty there’s a great spread, from simple recipes you could do with children, up to complicated professional looking celebration cakes.
The real test for a cookbook is to use it, so what’s it like to follow?
Light Luxury Fruit Cake
Recipe reproduced by kind permission of Quadrille Publishing.
For the fruit mix:
65g dried cranberries, halved
120g whole glacé cherries
80g dried figs, chopped
25g sour cherries, chopped
50g golden syrup
Grated zest of 1 lemon
For the cake mix
120g eggs (approximately 2 eggs)
90g dark brown sugar
115g unsalted butter, softened
25g ground almonds
90g plain flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
30ml whisky for soaking
1 tbsp apricot jam, sieved
800g ivory sugar paste
15cmx20cm oval cake tin
Newspaper and string
Make this cake at least 3-4 days in advance and store it wrapped in a layer of grease proof paper, then aluminium foil, to preserve moisture and flavour. You can make it several weeks, if not months, in advance if stored in a cool dry place. For an extra-moist and boozy flavour, feed the cake with whisky on a weekly basis or several times before icing.
To make the fruit mix
Place all the ingredients for the fruit mix into a large bowl, stir well and cover with cling film. Leave to infuse overnight at room temperature.
To make the cake mix
Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1. Double-line a deep 15cm round or oval cake tin with greaseproof paper and wrap the tin with a double thickness of newspaper, securing it with string.
Place the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk by hand until combined.
In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and the ground almonds until just creamy but not too aerated. Slowly add the egg mixture until you have a smooth emulsion. If the mixture starts to separate or curdle, add 1 tablespoon of flour. This will rebind the batter.
Sift the remaining dry ingredients together and fold through the batter in two batches until just combined.
Add the infused fruit to the cake mix and combine thoroughly and evenly with either a spatula or clean, gloved hands.
Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin. Level the surface with the back of a spoon. Before baking, tap the filled cake tin on your worksurface a few times to release any large air bubbles. This prevents the surface of the cake cracking.
Bake on a low shelf for 2-3 hours, depending on your oven. To prevent the cake from overbrowning, place an empty tray on the rack above. The cake is cooked when the top is golden brown. If in doubt, insert a clean knife or wooden skewer into the centre of the cake: it should come out clean.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes outside of the oven. While still warm, brush the top of the cake with whisky. Remove from the tin and leave the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before wrapping in greaseproof and aluminium foil.
Unwrap the cake and place it upside down on a cake board. Gently warm the apricot jam and use it to adhere the cake to the board. If there are any gaps between the cake and the board, fill them with small pieces of marzipan. Place the cake and board on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Brush a thin layer of warm apricot jam over the top and sides of the cake.
On a surface dusted with icing sugar, roll the marzipan out to a thickness of 5mm. It must be large enough to cover the cake. Using a rolling pin, lift the rolled marzipan and lay it over the cake. Smooth the marzipan over the cake, flattening the top and sides, using your hands. Trim away any excess marzipan using a kitchen knife. Flatten the top and sides of the cake using cake smoothers until even.
Brush some clear alcohol over the marzipan covered cake to create an adhesive. Roll out the ivory sugar paste and place it over the marzipan in the same way. Trim away any excess as before, reserving the trimmings for covering the cake board. Leave to set overnight.
Recipe abridged here, in the book there is far more detail on how to create a beautiful stag decoration with damask designs on the sides.
What does it taste like?
Like pudding, with cake the proof is definitely in the eating. This cake is moist. Soooo moist. It’s rich but not cloying, dense but not dry. A perfect fruitcake. I’m definitely going to make it again and on a larger scale.
The recipe was easy to follow and I’ve waxed lyrical about the results enough above, it is definitely my new ‘go to’ fruit cake. It’s representative of the book, a modern, sophisticated slant on a classic idea.
As far as the rest of the book goes – I really like the difficulty range. When a lot of recipe books are ‘dumbing down’ and providing ‘thirty minute meals’, it’s great to see one which offers challenges for all ability levels. The layout is great and there are clear, detailed explanations of complicated techniques. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it would make a fantastic birthday/Christmas gift for anyone who enjoys spending time in the kitchen.
Peggy Porschen’s Boutique Baking, RRP £20, published by Quadrille, is available from all good bookshops