Quick Fruit-and-Spice Cake

The origin of this recipe is ‘blackberry jam spice cake’
in David Burton’s excellent book Delectable Fruits
Cookery. Halfway between sponge and sour cream
dessert cake, moist and warmly spicy – I’d challenge
anyone to be near a kitchen where this cake is baking
– and not want to try some…. With seasonal changes
in fruit and nuts, it has quickly become my favourite
recipe for a tasty cake in a hurry.
I find this very moist cake tends to sink a little in the
centre. It doesn’t bother me, but if you want it to look
perfect, bake in a non-stick ring-pan.
Use fresh spices if possible. If your powdered cinnamon
is not quite fresh, you could increase to 2-1/2 tsp. But
don’t put in more than 1/2 level tsp of ground nutmeg
– this is a delicious balance of spices, and easily
overbalanced by too much nutmeg. Also, fresh walnuts
should taste mild and slightly sweet. If you can only
get old stored ones, which are beginning to taste bitter
– they will spoil a good cake. Use pecans or hazelnuts
or almonds instead.
If you want a cake without butter or sugar, you could
probably substitute low-cholesterol spread for the
butter, and 3/4 cup plus a separate 1/2 cup of melted
strong-flavoured honey for the sugar and the fruit jam,
and use a big handful of chopped walnuts or pecans
at the end with the second lot of honey.
The recipe doesn’t seem to be picky about flour: I
have used 50/50 bread and self-raising flour, or organic
unbleached white, with very similar results.
Anyway, here’s my basic version…
Ingredients:
150 gm butter
1 cup soft brown sugar
1-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 small eggs
2 to 3 TBS milk – (depending on
flour type)
3 heaped TBS ‘lite’ sour cream
A handful of freshly chopped walnuts
About 1 cup (1/2 small jar) Gregg’s
blackberry jam
If you don’t like blackberry pips in the
cake, warm the jam until melted and put
through a sieve into the cake mix – or
use a strong-flavoured dark plum jam.
Alternatively, try replacing the jam with
a cup of fresh or frozen blueberries or
chopped cooked gooseberries – or dried
fruit simmered in a little apple juice.
And maybe flaked almonds instead of
the walnuts.

Preparation:
1. We’ve given away our microwave, so I start by setting the oven
to about 100 deg C, cutting 150 gm of unsalted butter into pieces
in a small metal bowl, and putting it in the oven until just
softened.
2.  Meanwhile, measure 1 cup brown sugar into a mixing bowl, and
sift flour, spices and baking soda on to a square of baking paper.
3.  Take softened butter out of the oven and reset oven to preheat
to 180’C or 160’C for fan oven. Add butter to brown sugar and
beat till soft and fluffy.
4.  Then in the same small bowl used for softening butter, beat
eggs and sour cream until evenly pale yellow.
5.  Add egg mix, alternately with flour mix, into butter/sugar mix
and stir until just combined. Some kinds of flour take a little
more liquid: if batter seems too stiff to spread into a cake tin,
blend in 1 to 3 TBS milk. Then fold in the chopped nuts, and
the jam or fruit.
6.  Line a shallow square cake tin with the baking paper, spoon in
the batter and bake (about 35 min, 160’C in fan oven) – until
the cake is just set in the centre, and begins to pull away from
the sides of the tin.

With just two mixing bowls, a hand electric mixer, and one
large spoon there’s minimal washing up after baking.

Enjoy the cake – for tea, or as a dessert with yoghurt. It can last
for several days in a tin – but rarely gets the chance!

Shalom…. Simcha

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