Time to begin feeding that Xmas fruit cake

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SO. I have a fruit cake,” I told Divine Lady D.

She looked across the table at me and arched an eyebrow. “You what now?”

“Yes,” I continued. “A fruit cake, all beautifully wrapped in cellophane and decorated with glittery hearts. And a bottle of brandy to go with it.”

Although my granny used to bake fruit cake every year with supplies from the aromatic Wellington Fruit Growers in town – and making a wish while stirring the mixture was part of the tradition – I have never handled one myself. How much brandy? How often? So many questions, with one one answer – more brandy.

The weighty cake came from chef Mynhardt Joubert,  an experiential chef and home cook, who released a home-baked batch of 200 of moist, brandy-drenched fruit cakes last year which sold out in a matter of weeks. Accompanying the cake was a bottle of KWV 15-year-old, but no instructions.

“What if I pour the bottle into a bowl, and just soak the cake in it?” I asked Lady D. She squinted at me again. “Ummm…”

Apparently, the method is two tablespoons every fortnight, which doesn’t seem like nearly enough. Come December 25, my cake is going to go up like a firework.

Seriously though. These cakes are available at the annual Festive Ideas Market at Simondium Country Lodge until Sunday, October 29, with 10% of proceeds going to Mynhardt’s adopted charity, “The Island of Hope” in Paarl. Thereafter, they can be bought online for R250 via www.mynhardt.co.za, but with an unhurried two-month window on this procedure (unless you’re going my heavy-handed although not entirely traditional route), I’d say don’t waste any time.

Mynhardt’s  recipe draws on his Free State roots, and celebrates the familial aspect associated with the festive period: “Three years ago, my sister baked me one and mailed it to me all the way from Bethlehem in die Eastern Free State, packaged in an old-fashioned tin. That day, I started eating fruit cake and, to this day, I still bake her recipe every year,” he says.

He is undeterred by the fact many people have pre-supposed opinions about fruit cake (yes, me again): “After introducing my first batch of fruitcakes last year, I was surprised by many people who told me that they didn’t like fruitcake – until they tasted these!”

The secret, he reveals, is to not use too many foreign spices like nutmeg, or to add too much brandy (which will give the cake a heavy texture – I assume he means while baking, surely?), to go sparingly with raisins and to use sultanas instead, and to serve it with something light like home-made ginger ice cream. “Finally, I have a very gentle hand when mixing the batter for the cake, as vigorous over mixing will crush all the delicious key ingredients – like the nuts and whole cherries,” says Mynhardt, who also hosts popular Festive Tables during November and December.

Lunch and dinner long-table events reflect Mynhardt’s principle of generosity, with 20 to 30 guests accommodated at his cosy home in Stasie Street, Paarl.  For more information, to make bookings or place orders for fruit cake, go to www.mynhardt.co.za/, or follow him on social media: @MynhardtJ (Twitter); @mynhardtj (Instagram) and @MynhardtJ (Facebook).

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