The G.O. is not a devotee of Christmas cake i.e. fruit cake so it’s many years since I made one. Back in the days when I did, the version I made was simply dried fruit mix boiled in a combination of butter & orange juice and when cool flour, eggs and spices were added; very rich more like a pudding. A little went a long way so I baked it as cupcakes and distributed them widely amongst the family.
Last festive season visiting my aunt, she produced Christmas “mini muffins” made, she said, from my Nanna’s recipe. The G.O. uncharacteristically helped himself to extras, so my aunt emailed me the recipe labelled Polly’s Fruit Cake scanned from Nanna’s book. My sister’s middle name is Beulah, named after our Nanna but Nanna was always called Polly.
I hadn’t given thought to making it until the G.O.’s son recently mentioned he had already eaten the Lions charity Christmas cake he’d bought. Upon my suggestion it wouldn’t be difficult to bake one, his suggestion was I do so… for him.
Speaking to Dad I mentioned I was making the recipe and asked if he was interested in sampling the test batch. Paying lip service to his diet, he replied “No… Hmmm… Yes… Hmmm… You may as well drop some in”.
250 grams / 1 cup softened organic salted butter (or margarine)
500 grams / 3 cups mixed dried fruit
250 g / 1 cup brown sugar
250 g / 1 3/4 cups organic plain flour
1 tablespoon organic self-raising flour
6 medium eggs, free range
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs then flour and mixed fruit, and combine.
For whole cake bake in slow oven 160 C (325 F) approx. 2 1/2 hours. For muffins bake at 180 C (360 F) approx. 30 minutes. (Fan forced ovens 10-20 C lower)
The margarine ingredient is controversial. My grandparents were dairy farmers. We always had butter. Dad said Nanna wouldn’t have used margarine. I tend to agree. However, my aunt follows the recipe and uses margarine.
The address recorded on the page as well as the recipes give an idea as to its time. The address is for my uncle when he was conscripted into National Service during the Vietnam War.
“Under the National Service Scheme [1964 -1972], twenty-year-old men were required to register with the Department of Labour and National Service (DLNS), they were then subject to a ballot which, if their birth date was drawn, meant the possibility of two years of continuous full-time service in the regular army, followed by three years part-time service in the Army Reserve.”
It may be that’s the clue to the margarine. My uncle was called up and sent to Townsville, North Queensland for army training. Possibly Nanna sent fruit cake to him in a care package. He was a long way from home -1800 km, bad news as far as the family were concerned but mitigated eventually when he wasn’t sent to Vietnam but met, and later married his wife at nearby Rockhampton in December 1971 only months before Nanna died in February 1972 age only 50 + 2 months.
I’ve made the Christmas cakes, so… Polly, put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea.
As I beat the mixture it turned into a golden batter, and I knew by appearance and taste I’d been there when Nanna baked this cake.
The cakes come out of the oven browned, looking a little oily but as they cool they crisp.
I ate three for breakfast.