Monday, 8 June 2015

Amaretto Cherry Fruitcake

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for fruit cakes and bemoan the fact that due to competition from extravagant, ‘glamorous’ cakes they seem to have fallen from popularity. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good layer cake and delight in eating all sorts of iced and frosted creations, but there is something so reassuring and familiar about a fruit cake that you just don’t get with other cakes.
This is a light fruit cake flavoured with nothing more than the fruit itself and a generous splash of Amaretto. I am a great fan of Amaretto with its lovely almond flavour and always have a bottle in the house as I think it is an incredibly useful ingredient, particularly in baking. In fact, I recommend soaking the sultanas in a small amount overnight, before baking the cake. This serves two purposes; firstly it plumps up the fruit and makes it more luscious to eat and secondly, it imparts a lovely almond flavour to the fruit and finished cake. Granted, you don’t have to soak the fruit, but it is something that I have got into the habit of doing and which, I find, definitely adds that extra little something! If you don’t have Amaretto, don’t despair, soak the fruit in a little orange juice and use milk in the cake batter instead so that you reach the correct ‘dropping’ consistency.
I brushed the finished cake, whilst still warm with a glaze which I made by heating some apricot jam and Amaretto together. Although, this is not absolutely necessary, it does give the cake a lovely shine and further imparts a subtle almond aroma and flavour.
To avoid the glacé cherries sinking as the cake bakes, I use the time-honoured trick of washing them first to remove the sticky glaze. I then dry them using some kitchen paper and dust them with a little flour before folding them into the cake batter. I don’t know why this works, but it does and the fruit should be evenly distributed through the baked cake.


Soaking the fruit:
65g sultanas
2tblsp Amaretto (or orange juice)
175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
210g plain flour
40g self-raising flour
25g ground almonds
25ml Amaretto (or milk)
50g glacé cherries, halved and rinsed to remove syrup and then dried on kitchen paper
½ tblsp plain flour
25g flaked almonds
To glaze:
50g apricot jam
2tblsp Amaretto (or water)


The night before:
1. Place the sultanas and Amaretto in a small bowl, cover and leave aside to give the sultanas a chance to absorb the liqueur.
To bake the cake the following day:
2. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin with some baking parchment and set aside. Preheat oven to 160C/Fan Oven 140C/Gas Mark 3.
3. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs gradually, mixing well after each addition.
4. Sift the plain and self-raising flours together and fold into the butter mixture, making sure that everything is incorporated. Add the ground almonds and Amaretto (or milk) and mix these through.
5. Dust the dried cherries with a little flour and add these to the cake mixture along with the sultanas which should have absorbed most of the Amaretto they were steeping in.
6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling out the surface and sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and well-risen and a thin skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
7. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the tin for a few minutes while you make the glaze.
8. Place the apricot jam and Amaretto (or water) in a small saucepan and heat until just bubbling. Allow to bubble gently for 2 minutes and then strain through a sieve into a small clean bowl. Discard the solids that collect in the sieve.
9. Brush the glaze on top of the cake using a pastry brush. Allow to cool for another 10 minutes and then remove the cake from the tin and transfer to a wire-rack to finish cooling completely.

Serves 8-10.