Once upon a time, before the bitter cynicism of adulthood took hold, Buttered Crumbs was a small and adorable child. Papa worked for well known pre packed cake producer Mr Kipling; one of the perks of the job was the monthly complementary box of cakes – a large cardboard box filled with a selection of goodies. As the years went by the box shrunk by degrees until it was small indeed. I’m not sure the employee’s even get one now.
Anyway, it was enourmously exciting to be allowed to unpack the contents onto the table, setting aside the family favourites while others would be passed on to my aged Great Aunts. One of my particular favourites was Manor House cake, described as a “Mouthwatering golden sponge baked with juicy sultanas and topped with a sprinkling of sweet demerara sugar” It had a lovely malty background flavour too, maybe it still does, these days I don’t eat pre packaged cakes if I can avoid them; nasty oversweet things, full of palm oil and humecants.
I still do love a nice light fruit cake though, none of your OTT Christmas cake nonsense! November’s cake of the month is a slightly richer version of my favourite light fruit cake, made so with the addition of traditional ale. The beauty is in it’s versatility, enjoy with a cup of normal or herbal tea or a glass of milk . Eat as a snack, as part of a traditional afternoon tea or as a light meal with fruit and cheese. The kind of cake that is happy being served for tea at Granny’s house or post gala* at Lord and Lady Snob’s country pile.
Malted Ale fruitcake
- 6oz (180g) self raising flour
- 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2oz (60g) ground almonds
- 4oz (120g) butter
- 6oz light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3.5oz (105g) sultanas
- 3.5oz (105g) raisins
- 3tbsp malt extract
- 4floz (125ml) ale (I used Old Speckled Hen) or use milk / plant based milk
- demerara sugar for sprinkling
Grease and line an 8 or 9 inch diameter, deep, loose bottomed or springform cake tin. Pre heat the oven to 160ºc (140 fan, gas mark 3)
Heat the ale, butter, sugar and malt extract until the butter has melted. Add the dried fruit, bring to the boil then simmer for 5 mins. Leave to cool.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl and beat in the eggs. Sift over the flour, soda and almonds and beat well.
Pour into the cake tin, sprinkle generously with demerara sugar and put in the oven. Cover the top with a square of baking paper to prevent the top cooking before the middle. Depending on your oven it will take from 40 mins to an hour to cook. Test with a skewer after 40 mins just to be on the safe side. Cool on a wire rack.
To make the cake lighter you could use white sugar and milk instead of ale, to make it richer make up some of the weight of the dried fruit with chopped dried figs and apricots and soak them in ale overnight.
To the Manor Born was actually a sitcom starting in 1979, starring Penelope Keith.