Petra Lewis’ Best Ever Wedding Cake.

Christmas-Tree-Cake - No WatermarkIf, like me, fruitcake brings you out in hives, you positively loathe wedding cake and dread Christmas when you have to force down a slice of Granny’s ‘Special Christmas Cake’ or risk causing terminal offence – you can heave a sigh of relief. To my surprise, I have found the ONLY fruitcake that was not only bearable, but sent me scuttling back for seconds. It was made by Petra Lewis for her daughter Jemima’s wedding and is truly delicious – even to those who abhor all those glacé cherries and that thick stodgy marzipan. The recipe was taken from the Four Seasons Cookery Book, by Margaret Costa which is stuffed full of good old-fashioned recipes.


hot tip:
 Really good dried fruit makes all the difference and you can vary the type as long as the overall weight remains the same. Consider replacing some of the peel with crystallized kumquats for a better flavour.

8oz yellow sultanas
8oz glacé cherries
4oz crystallized pineapple
2oz crystallized ginger
2oz angelica
4oz walnuts
6oz candied peel
4 eggs
3-4 tbs brandy or sherry
8oz plain flour
8oz butter
1 lemon – grated zest & juice
8oz caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
NB Soak the sultanas in brandy for several hours before you start.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 350°F

Prepare an 8-inch cake tin (one with a loose base is best).
Butter it and line it with two layers of greaseproof paper, brushed with melted butter.
Tie some brown paper (that sticks up an inch above the rim) around the outside of the tin for extra protection.

Sift the flour with the salt.
Quarter the cherries and chop the pineapple, ginger, angelica, nuts and candied peel.
(For the best peel, buy the large pieces of citron peel coated in sugar and chop finely yourself.)

Beat the eggs hard until thick and foamy. This may take 10-15 minutes but will result in a good-textured cake.
Cream the butter with the lemon rind and cream in the sugar until fluffy and soft.
Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each edition.
NB If the mixture shows any sign of curdling, quickly beat in a touch of the flour.
Stir in the flour very lightly, followed by the lemon juice.
Stir in the prepared fruit, a little at a time, and then the brandy.
If necessary, add a little more, but don’t make the mixture too damp – it should be just moist enough to drop from the spoon if you give it a good shake.

Turn the mixture into the prepared tin.
Smooth the mixture over the top and make a deep hollow in the middle, sloping it evenly from the middle to the edge so it rises evenly.

Put the cake in the oven, on the shelf below the centre.
After an hour and a half, reduce the temperature to Mark 1, 275°F, and bake for another two and a half to three hours.
(After two and a half hours, check to see if the top of the cake is browning too much. If it is, cover it with another double layer of greaseproof paper.)

The cake is done when it is evenly brown and risen, has shrunk from the sides of the tin and has stopped ‘singing’.
Leave it in the tin to cool, away from any draughts, for at least an hour, before turning it out and leaving it to cool completely before storing.
Store it in as large a tin as possible.

I vary this recipe a little every year, as I suppose most do, so as not to get bored with it. One of the nicest variations was the addition of three or four sugared apricots.
I cut down a little on the sugar and the other fruit to redress the balance.

 — Lucinda Baring



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