I have just been doing some baking for the last coffee morning of the term, so I decided to bake a couple of old favourites and to try out something new as well. My old maths teacher once told us (apropos of no mathematical topic whatsoever) that it was not a good idea to try out a new recipe when you have guests for dinner. I can see the logic of that argument, but I don’t tend to apply it to my baking for cakes sales or coffee mornings, which seem to me to be excellent opportunities for trying out new ideas on a large number of victims (sorry, tasters). To that end, apart from baking shortbread and brownies, which I have featured previously on the blog, I decided to make a boiled sultana slab cake. I baked this fruit cake in a roasting tin, then I cut it up into about thirty small slices, an ideal size for nibbling with coffee.
My cake recipe is one that I cut from a packet of Gold Seal sultanas many moons ago and have never tried out before this occasion. It was stuck in my recipe folder in anticipation, yet unused until this week. I have made a boiled fruit cake before, quite a dark fruitcake (my nan’s recipe), but this mixture results in a nice golden cake. As you can see, the original recipe used sultanas only, but I used a mixture of glace cherries and sultanas instead. Another possible tweak is to use less sugar, as this is a very sweet cake. I am interested in seeing how a fruit and nut mixture would work using this method, so that’s an idea for the future. It may be that you could boil the fruit and then stir in some chopped almonds afterwards, as I don’t think nuts would derive much benefit from boiling.
I am not sure where the method of boiling the dried fruit originated, but it is an excellent way to achieve very soft fruit. Perhaps historically it was a method of using up poorer quality dried fruit, or using up the last of the stored supplies, which may have passed their best. Either way, the boiling method makes a very moist, dense cake, which slices and keeps beautifully. This cake making method is also a very straightforward one, great for novice cooks. I hesitate to say that nothing can go wrong, but I think this method is almost certainly foolproof. That is, unless you let the fruit boil over the top of the saucepan I suppose.
The cake recipe is included in the picture gallery if you want to try it out; I used block margarine instead of butter on this occasion. You will probably notice that the instructions omit tin greasing; I greased the roasting tin, but also used my margarine wrapping on the base of the tin. I find that butter and margarine papers are really useful as tin or tray liners. In retrospect, I should have completely lined the tin, as I had problems with a couple of bits of cake sticking to the tin. One other change that I would make to the quantities would be to reduce the two teaspoons of almond essence, as I think the flavour is a little strong. However, you can adapt this good basic recipe in several ways, so it will be well worth making again.
Now I’m off to pack up some cake in boxes….having sampled everything first of course!