Sunday, 7 December 2014

Pride goes before...

Oh dear. We're making English Dried Fruit Cake this week and we're going to start with a game. You have to look at the photo and pick the mistake.

Can't pick it yet? If you're a serious cake person, you may be able to diagnose the problem from this picture. (Hint: it's not a photo from the recent comet landing)

Yes, a rookie mistake - too much raising agent from using the wrong flour. (I had to restrain myself from using a sad face emoticon here)

In Australia ,as in the UK, we have two main flours for general use. Self-raising flour which, as its name suggests, contains raising agents; and plain flour, the equivalent of all-purpose flour in the US. DESPITE taking a photo of the offending article, I still failed to notice I had taken the wrong flour out of the fridge (another adjustment made for the hot, humid weather).

As an aside, special pastry or cake flour is not generally used here. Although it's now available on supermarket shelves, it's not part of our baking culture (which mainly springs from the UK and Europe) and is not specified in recipes. In fact I tried cake flour once (inspired by something I read about flour and a softer crumb by RLB I believe) but was really not that keen. A lifetime of making and eating cakes made with unbleached Australian flour (which has a relatively higher protein content) has apparently left me with a taste for a more robust cake crumb.

Australian flour for domestic use is unbleached. Recipes for lighter cakes such as the Victoria Sponge often contain a mix of flour and cornflour to achieve the lightness that, according to Rose, is achieved by using bleached flour in the US. While Rose specifies bleached flour in this recipe for English Dried Fruit Cake and many others, I decided that, unless we're making a sponge type cake, I'll be happy with using a good quality plain flour. Thanks to Google I found that the flour I use has a reasonably low protein ratio of 7.7g per 1kg. Phew! Who'd have thought I'd know so much about flour and protein?!

I guess we'd better get back to the cake itself. As several Alpha Bakers commented, it's a doddle. Haha. And it is really. It doesn't even require any creaming of butter and sugar.

It's not really like a classic English fruitcake which has strong spices; dried fruit like sultanas, raisins and currants; and the dreaded mixed peel. It starts with a baker's choice mix of dried fruit which is cut up and soaked in hot water (and a bit of brandy since I found some in the fridge).

 The flour and raising agents are mixed with toasted pecans and the drained fruit.

 Sugar and butter are melted together and the fresh apple and eggs are added.

There seems to be a blank in my photos when it comes to mixing the dry and wet ingredients together. I think this is where I realised my mistake with the flour and was too busy crying into the batter to take photos. Or I may have been swearing...

I could tell when I touched the top of the almost cooked cake that things were not well. There was no spring, only rubberyness. And depression (mine not the cake's).

I cut a piece not long after I took it out of the oven. Tinny. Almost inedible. More depression.

On the plus side I had fruit distribution that the CWA* ladies would be proud of thanks to the coating of flour.

In fact, after a day the flavour of the cake had improved, although I thought the flavour of the pecans jarred a bit.  I'm wondering if they were less than fresh. I've resolved, in the spirit of an Alpha Baker, to try it again and will post a photo in the next couple of days.

Right now I'm off to drown my sorrows in a piece of fruitcake. Well, someone has to eat it.


It's hard to believe that the second time making this cake I almost made the same mistake again. And I almost gave up at that point. But I soldiored on, cutting down the nuts (walnuts this time) and increasing the dried fruits, using mainly dried figs and prunes with the fresh apple. And it was much better with a much improved texture and flavour. I'm not sure it's a cake I'd make again but that might just be the trouble I had making it. You'll have to excuse the night vision photos.

*Country Women's Association (with a fearsome cake making reputation)


  1. Oh Catherine, I'm so sorry that your cake didn't turn out. I've used wrong ingredients too in the past. And in one case, making banana bread, forgot to add sugar! Now I try to taste a bit of the batter every time I bake something, just in case. At least the cake didn't take too long to make, so in your 2nd try, it'll be even faster.

    1. Thanks Jenn, it's always a bit of a hit to the ego when you make such an absent-minded mistake! The next try should be a doddle :)

  2. Yes Catherine, someone has to eat it! You're funny. If you had served me a piece, I would have been thrilled, and never known about extra ingredient. I'm certain it was delicious. I loved your post and your pics. Fun reading. Cheers to all the silly, unintentional mistakes and oversights that are to come. I posted my fruit cake experience at

  3. Catherine your post is nice and the pictures look great and so does your English fruit cake, everybody makes mistakes even me and I've made quite a few of them in baking that is even bread that I've never made in my life before home made bread.

  4. Hi Catherine, so glad you tried it again! What a good sport you are! Great post!

  5. I can't believe you made it a second time! I think I would have pouted and had a nip of brandy. Do you know about Kate flour?

    1. Oh, there was quite a lot of pouting going on.

      I did read about Kate flour but I think I draw the line at microwaving flour. How much difference can it make for a domestic cook? (Is that blasphemy... Rosephemy?) Although maybe in the Christmas holidays I might be inspired to experiment.

  6. ב''ה

    Interesting bit about the flour.

    Learned a new word: doodle. :)

    I like the fig idea.

    You'll have to tell us more about this infamous 'CWA'...

  7. I'm so sorry to hear that your pecans were rancid. I get rancid pecans too..that's why i don't really like to buy them. I think it is because of our hot & humid weather that's why! I'm glad it worked out with walnuts! Do you get winter there?

    1. Yes the pecans seem to be very disappointing here. Maybe because they're not eaten as much as in the US and UK?

      The top end of Australia is wet/dry tropics; so we have 5-6 months dry season in the middle of the year (no rain and cooler, 30C) and then the build up (HOT 35C) and then the wet season with monsoonal rains. I think Singapore is wet tropics isn't it? With more rain throughout the year?

  8. That's the spirit! All's well that ends well.

  9. Thanks for your encouragement everyone.

    Mendy - I recommend the figs with the prunes, apple and walnuts - a good combination. Glad to add to your British slang vocabulary - I obviously watch too much TV :)

  10. Oh no... I'm so sorry you used the wrong flour the first time. What a disappointment that must have been for you. I keep my flours in different containers to help eliminate that possibility. Hope you'll stop by and visit my post.

    Patricia @ ButterYum

  11. Welcome! A kindred Aussie (although I started out in NZ) spirit. Bugger about the SR flour, although I did giggle about it coming out of the fridge - those weevils. One positive about living in London - impervious to weevils.

    You get an A for perseverance - and your cake looks good!