WITH his Festive Fruitcake Charity Drive, chef Mynhardt Joubert feels a sense of renewed hope that the end of winter will give way to new beginnings and opportunities.
The cake’s special ingredient is hope, he says. “I learnt its power first hand this year. Hope is strong; it makes you believe in the impossible. Hope may start small, but well nurtured it turns into a strongly rooted tree.
“For six years now this fruitcake has been the way for my team and I to do something tangible for vulnerable children in our community to believe in hope. All proceeds benefit Butterfly House, a community resource centre in the Drakenstein District aimed at creating a hopeful future, and Helpende Handjies in Montagu. Both NGOs run feeding schemes for children as part of their programmes.
“KWV, Sasko, Moir’s, Montagu Snacks and Lactalis are on board again. With their continued support we can bake 2000 cakes this year, 800 more than previously.”
The festive fruitcake is R450 (excluding delivery) for a 2kg cake, gift-wrapped in recyclable packaging, baked in a square pan for easy cutting. Order online at or email [email protected] or whatsapp Cedrick 084 916 4506. Cakes can be couriered countrywide.
The classic red and white gift-wrapped package includes a handmade Christmas wreath. “As with the baking of the cakes, the whole team is involved: Vytjie our fruitcake queen with love in her fingertips, her husband Danny, Maritha Papiere, Cedrick on logistics and Jasmine Sponsie on quality control,” says Mynhardt. “We cut the vine shoots in the depth of winter, then wove and decorated it all by hand. They do the hard work with a smile, knowing it will benefit their own communities.
“Go ahead, get a taste, but do keep some for later. Well-wrapped and sprinkled with brandy now and then, the flavour will improve through nurturing – just like hope.”
MYNHARDT’S FESTIVE FRUITCAKE
This is the tried-and-tested recipe Mynhardt Joubert uses for his annual Festive Fruitcake Charity Drive. While quite effortless to make, the result is a rich, dark cake – the perfect blend of fruit and nuts in a cake batter with brown sugar and real butter at its base. Its shiny glacé cherries, nuts, plumped-up dried fruit, dates, golden sultanas and welcoming cinnamon represent the best of Christmas traditions.
Ideally the cake should be baked at least a month in advance for the flavours to develop. See the baking tips below for more fruitcake wisdom.
It makes 1 x 25 cm cake.
310ml soft brown sugar
1kg Montagu fruit cake mix (dried fruit and nuts)
250g Montagu dates, chopped
250g Montagu golden sultanas, chopped
250g roughly chopped cashew and macadamia nuts
7ml Moir’s bicarbonate of soda
250g Président butter
100g Moir’s whole red glacé cherries
100g Moir’s whole green glacé cherries
5 eggs beaten
20ml Moir’s vanilla extract
125ml KWV Brandy, plus extra for sprinkling
625ml Sasko self-raising flour
5ml ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 120°C with oven rack in the middle. Butter a deep 25 cm cake pan.
- Line the pan with 3 layers of baking paper and butter the inside again.
- Add the first 8 ingredients to a large saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool.
- Add the cherries.
- In a separate bowl combine the eggs, vanilla and brandy, then add it to the cooled fruit mixture. Add the flour, salt and cinnamon, mix well.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for 2 hours. It’s done if a test skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean (it can be moist, but not doughy).
- Let the cake cool in the pan and turn it out on a cooling rack. Sprinkle the cake with brandy and place in an airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place.
- Brush the cake liberally with brandy once a week to keep it moist and deepen the flavours.
MYNHARDT AND VYTJIE’S FRUITCAKE WISDOM
The first rule of Mynhardt’s legendary fruitcake is to use quality ingredients, as each ingredient supports the other. “So don’t compromise, especially not with the butter,” he says.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to the most royal of all celebration cakes.
How long ahead should I bake a fruitcake?
Who intends to bake a fruit cake and keep it for a decade? While it can last that long, you would want to make it ahead a few months or weeks. As the batter is dense and candied fruit and nuts don’t spoil, the cake will be shelf-stable for weeks, months even when properly wrapped and stored at room temperature. Then again, if you didn’t get round to baking it beforehand, a day or two will be okay.
How come some people don’t eat fruitcake?
It always come as a surprise when people say they have a love-hate relationship with fruitcake. Most likely they’ve only tasted shop-bought fruitcake made with cheap ingredients, inferior dried fruit and no love.
They might complain about overbearing spices. Using too much easily overpowers the fruit and nuts. Mixed spice contains cloves, allspice and nutmeg – rather go for the warmth and familiarity of cinnamon and vanilla. If you want some punch, get adventurous with the floral notes of cardamom, ginger, even caraway seeds.
Is it essential to soak the fruit overnight?
With Mynhardt’s method of simmering the mixed fruit and nuts for a few minutes it’s not necessary to soak the fruit overnight. Simmering rather than soaking ensures an even more moist and flavourful cake.
How do I prevent the dried fruit and nuts from sinking to the bottom?
With this tried-and-tested recipe it’s unlikely to happen. When not using the boiling method, it’s recommended to lightly toss the fruit and nuts in cake flour before stirring it into the batter. This prevents them settling at the bottom.
Why are some fruitcakes so crumbly?
Most likely the balance of fruit to the cake batter is out of whack. Too much sugar can make a cake crumble when cut, while too little will make it dense – that’s why it’s essential to carefully measure the ingredients.
How to prevent fruitcake from burning?
- Baking a fruitcake is not a speed contest, so take your time with it. The fruit has a higher sugar content, which may burn easily if you’re not patient – rather go for a lower oven temperature, 120°C at the most.
- Properly prepare your pans by lining all sides and bottom with 2-3 layers of baking paper or brown paper. Some experts even tie brown paper or newspaper on the outside of the tin for extra precaution, but if you bake it at 120°C it’s not necessary.
- Although the cake doesn’t rise much, only fill the pan 2/3 for more even baking.
- Ovens may differ – so if a testing skewer still comes out doughy, lightly cover the cake with foil or baking paper to prevent drying out or browning too quickly, and bake a little longer. Make a small, coin size hole in the middle to allow the steam to escape.
- Placing a bowl of water on the oven floor will also help to keep the cake tender and moist.
Why ripen a fruitcake?
- Ripening/maturing the cake improves the taste and texture. This shouldn’t stress you out at all – just keep it well-wrapped and feed it with brandy or dessert wine now and then. For a rich, mature fruitcake feed it once a week, ideally for at least a month, 3 months for its full potential.
- If you didn’t get around to baking it in advance, it’s perfectly okay to do so a day or two before and serve it fresh.
- If you don’t use alcohol, feed the cake with your favourite fruit juice (orange juice works well).
How should I store fruitcake?
- To keep it moist, wrap in baking paper, then in clingwrap and place in an air-tight container in a dry place, away from direct light. Usually well-wrapped fruitcake doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It will last up to 6 months in a fridge or up to a year in the freezer. Keep in mind that the flavours won’t develop in the fridge or freezer, so rather ripen at room temperature for a few weeks beforehand.
- Rather not wrap it directly in foil as the fruit acids can corrode the foil and effect the flavour of the cake.
How to cut a fruitcake without crumbling?
Mynhardt bakes his fruitcake in a square tin, which is easier to cut in even-portioned slices. Use a sharp serrated knife to first cut long slices; then in shorter pieces. Avoid pushing the knife down which will crush the fruit; and always cut through. Wipe the blade clean with a wet cloth between cuts. Wrap the rest of the cake well before storing.
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