How to make a five-star festive fruitcake
Chef Mynhardt Joubert bakes a mountain of fruitcakes each year to benefit charity. He shares the recipe for his famous Free State Fruitcake, plus the secrets that make it so delectable
It's been a busy time for Paarl-based chef and KWV brand ambassador Chef Mynhardt Joubert. His initiative, the Festive Fruitcake Charity Drive, now in its fifth year, sees him baking 120 of his special Free State Fruitcakes each year, the sales of which will benefit two organisations.
This is no ordinary celebration cake as each slice is an edible jewel of shiny red and green glace cherries, dried fruit, dates and golden sultanas plumped beautifully with brandy and studded with nuts.
How on earth does Joubert crack out so many fruitcakes? “We started baking our fruitcakes in early October — the festive aromas of butter and cinnamon reaching every nook and cranny of my KWV Cathedral Cellar Kitchen in Paarl,” he explains.
“It's a team effort with Vytjie (Corleen) McGee fully in command, measuring, mixing and lining her pans. Her husband, Dawid Opperman, lends a hand as Vytjie is too short to reach everything. Marita Pieterse takes care of the wrapping and prettifying, while Frikkie Janse van Rensburg and Cedrick Moubima handle the logistics. Jasmine Fransman, lovingly known as Sponsie, does the quality control and keeps things going at my Station Street Kitchen.”
You can order one of Joubert's Free State Fruitcakes (see details below), or make your own using this recipe, which he says was inspired by the heirloom recipe of a friend.
To get the best flavours from this delicious fruitcake, it's best to bake it at least a month before eating.
FREE STATE FRUITCAKE RECIPE
Makes: 1 x 25cm cake
250ml (1 cup) water
310ml (1¼ cups) soft brown sugar
1kg fruitcake mix (dried fruit and nuts)
250g dates, chopped
250g golden sultanas, chopped
250g cashew and macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
7ml (1½ tsp) baking soda
100g each of whole red and green glace cherries
5 eggs, beaten
20ml (4 tsp) vanilla extract
125ml (½ cup) brandy, plus extra for sprinkling
625ml (2½ cups) self-raising flour
5ml (1 tsp) salt
5ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 120°C; ensure the oven rack in the middle.
- Butter a deep 25cm 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 mixture from the heat and let it cool.
- Add the red and green glace 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 ready if a test skewer inserted into 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.
JOUBERT'S 10 SECRETS FOR A STELLAR FRUITCAKE
1. Keep the cherries whole. It's a lovely sensation when you bite into it and it pops. It's also a nestling place for the brandy.
2. Go slow with the spices as they can easily overpower the other ingredients. Stick to warm, welcoming cinnamon.
3. Take your time with the baking. Ovens differ, so don't rush it. With the fruit's higher sugar content, the oven temperature shouldn't exceed 120°C. A bowl of water on the oven floor will protect the cake from burning or drying out.
4. Should your testing skewer still come out doughy, bake for a further 10 minutes and test again.
5. If it browns too quickly, lightly cover with baking paper or tin foil.
6. Make the recipe your own; add your favourite nuts or green fig preserve. A beautifully wrapped fruitcake makes for the best gift ever — the homemade touches make people feel special.
7. The best fruitcakes are ones that are given time to ripen as this improves the taste and texture. Ensure it is well-wrapped and doused with brandy or dessert wine now and then.
8. If you don't get round to baking in advance, it's perfectly OK to do so a day or two before and serve it fresh.
9. To keep it moist, wrap in baking paper, then in clingwrap and place in an airtight container in a dry place, away from direct light. It will last and last. It is best not to wrap it directly in foil as the fruit acids can react with it.
10. Fruitcake freezes very well but keep in mind that the flavours won't develop when frozen, so rather ripen beforehand.
ORDER YOUR CAKE FOR GOODNESS SAKE
This year the Festive Fruitcake Charity Drive is for two organisations: Butterfly House, a community resource centre which aims to bring hope to children in the Drakenstein District, and Huis Uitvlucht, a home for the frail and elderly in Montagu in the Little Karoo.
The Free State Fruitcake weighs R1.8kg, costs R395 (excl. delivery/courier) and is gift wrapped, making it an excellent gift which can be delivered countrywide.