Every autumn in our village, buckets appear outside houses with signs attached saying ‘Apples – please help yourself’. Apples become a currency with swaps being made for plums or damsons, and pies and crumbles are cooked in quantity. Yorkshire may not be as well known for apple growing as other areas of England like Kent and Somerset, but there are old orchards scattered all over the county. We live not far from Ampleforth Abbey, where there has been an orchard for over 100 years. Many of the trees grown there are old Yorkshire varieties, well adapted to the Northern climate. Maintaining a beautiful old orchard takes a lot of time, and at Ampleforth this is funded by making cider and selling it through local shops.
I was inspired to make a cake with fruit soaked in Ampleforth Abbey cider when I read about the regional food challenge on Karen’s lovely blog over at Lavender and Lovage. The challenge is being sposored by New World Appliances, and has already visited Scotland and Cornwall – what a great way to travel around the UK!
I rarely make fruit cakes, but this one is a family favourite – not as dark and heavy as some cakes, but still jam-packed with lovely dried fruit. Soaking the fruit overnight in cider added an extra layer of flavour, as well as keeping the cake nice and moist. It’s a perfect cake to serve with morning coffee, afternoon tea – and pretty much any time in between. And being a Yorkshire fruit cake, it is, of course, best served with a nice slice of Wensleydale!
Ampleforth Abbey Cider Fruit Cake
540g mixed dried fruit – raisins, currants, sultanas, cherries, dates, apricots … pick your favourites!
250ml Ampleforth Abbey Cider
235g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g soft light brown sugar
1 tbsp clear honey
3 large eggs
grated zest of 1 lemon
Chop any larger dried fruit into small pieces, and put it all into a bowl. Pour the cider over the fruit, stir and leave to soak overnight.
The following day, preheat the oven to 180oC, 350oF, gas 4. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. Cream together the butter, sugar and honey in a large bowl, until the mixture has a light and creamy consistency. Add the eggs one at a time, giving everything a good mix after each addition. Don’t worry too much if the mixture starts to look like it’s curdling – stirring a spoonful of the flour into the butter and egg mixture should help.
Lightly fold in the flour and baking powder, followed by soaked fruit and lemon zest.
Turn the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 170oC, 325oF, Gas 3 and cook for a further 1-11/2 hours, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the top of the cake looks like it is browning too quickly, cover it with a piece of greaseproof paper.
Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.