Light Fruit Cake:
3/4 cup (120 grams) candied mixed peel
1/2 cup (100 grams) candied red or green cherries (cut into quarters)
1/3 cup (40 grams) dark raisins
2-3 tablespoons Grand Marnier, rum, brandy, or sherry (optional)
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (50 grams) ground almonds (almond meal/flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
Zest of one small lemon (outer skin)
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk (whole or reduced fat)
Light Fruit Cake: If desired, in a bowl combine the candied mixed peel, cherries, and dark raisins. Stir in the alcohol, cover, and let sit at room temperature at least a day (up to two days). Stir occasionally.
When ready to make the cake batter, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C), with the oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the extracts. Add the candied and dried fruits, along with any juices, and beat until incorporated. Beat in half the flour mixture just until incorporated. Then beat in the milk and then the remaining flour mixture.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and, if desired, decorate the top of the cake with sliced or flaked almonds. Bake for about 60 - 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (If you find the cake is browning too much, cover with a piece of aluminum foil.) Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before removing from pan. The cake does benefit from being stored a day or two before serving, as this softens the outer crust and allows the flavors to mingle. You can cover and store this cake for about a week at room temperature or it can be frozen.
Makes one loaf.
Although not a proper British Fruit Cake, this Light Fruit Cake should not be ignored. It has lots of what I consider the best part of a fruit cake, candied fruit. I love this cake's delicate almond flavor and you don't have to wait weeks to enjoy this tea bread, as it can be eaten the same day it's baked. Of course, for those who like their fruit cakes to have a boozy flavor, you can mix the candied fruit and raisins with a little alcohol and let it macerate for a day or two. This is one cake that is so good that it begs to be made all year, not just during the Christmas season. So stock up on candied fruit.
For this Light Fruit Cake I like to use a combination of candied mixed peel and candied cherries (can use either red or green). Candied fruit is actually preserved fruit that has been dipped several times in a concentrated sugar syrup. This process preserves the fruit's original color and shape, while giving it a smooth and shiny coating, a very sweet taste, with a firm and slightly chewy texture. If you decide to macerate the candied fruit and dark raisins in alcohol, some good choices are Grand Marnier, rum, brandy, or even a sherry. To allow time for the alcohol to flavor the fruit, try to do this step at least a day or two before making the cake. And when you remember, stir it a few times during the day. Ground almonds are also used in this batter, and you can either buy ground almonds (called almond meal or flour) in grocery stores, specialty food stores, on line, or you can even make your own by processing whole blanched or natural almonds in your food processor until finely ground.
A few things about this recipe are worth mentioning. You could adjust the amounts of candied fruit and raisins. By that I mean, if you would prefer more dried fruit, reduce the amount of candied fruit. And, although I've used raisins, you could also use other dried fruits in its place. Also, while you can serve this cake the day it's made, it does benefit from being stored a day or two. That way, the crust will soften and it allows time for the flavors to mingle.