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Fruit cake questions from a non-fruit cake lover

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 



I have a few questions about fruit cake, I don't like it myself but am making one for a friend for the top tier of her wedding cake.


Why do some fruit cake recipes say make at least 3-months before they are needed to give them enough time to 'mature' for eating and other recipes say 'can be made up to 6 weeks before needed'? does that mean that if I made the 6-week one any earlier I would have to freeze it?


Does feeding it brandy not make it go soggy?


How far in advance can I decorate a fruit cake with marzipan and sugar paste (rolled fondant)?


Thanks for your help with just one or all of my questions!

post #2 of 9

Some fruit cakes are not designed to store - they are really like a maderia cake with fruit in it. Other fruit cakes are sufficiently rich to store well and mature with age instead of spoiling. If you use one of the ones that mentions the 3 months or is referred to as a 'rich Christmas cake' it should be better (assuming your friend wants that type of cake). Does she want to keep it for her anniversary/child's christening or something? If that's the case it needs to be one of the rich type ones.


I've never made a cake that needed feeding but have often eaten them:) you only use a little bit of brandy/whiskey so it is absorbed by the cake and fruit instead of making it soggy. If you have ever soaked dried fruit they get all plump and juicy looking - that is the type of thing that is happening with the cake as opposed to like pouring liquid over a sponge cake (yup that would be soggy and gross!)


I'm not sure about the covering although I would guess a week or two would be fine (based on cut portions of rich fruit cake I have kept). Other's should be able to anser that better though!


Hope that helps.

post #3 of 9
Originally Posted by Cake Obsessed View Post



Does feeding it brandy not make it go soggy?


How far in advance can I decorate a fruit cake with marzipan and sugar paste (rolled fondant)?



Jennifer353 has pretty much answered your questions thumbs_up.gif


For a fruit cake to need 'feeding' it needs to be baked at least 4-5 weeks ahead of needed, and can be fed every 2-3 weeks.  I skewer it with a metal skewer, and then brush brandy, (the best results have been using my husband's Courvoisiericon_twisted.gif)  Try not to just pour from the bottle, as it will splash unevenly and create uneven 'hot' spots.  Some people actually use a hypodermic syringe, but I've never needed this.

I store my fruit cakes upside down, to help level the top, and wrapped in greaseproof paper and then foil. Then placed in a metal tin.  (empty biscuit selection tins are good, and metal ones are better than a plastic tub)


You can start decorating a few weeks before needed, I like to finish covering/icing my fruit cakes at LEAST 24 hours before needed.  I think a layer of marzipan gives a much smoother finish,  apricot glaze/boiled jam can be brushed on to help it to stick.  Clear alcohol such as gin/vodka can also be used.  The marzipan can also be brushed.  If it is to be placed on a foil wrapped cake board/drum, and won't be eaten for a few days/weeks it might be worth putting a thin coat of marzipan under the cake as well.  Saying that, I've iced Christmas cakes at the start of December, that haven't been cut until the New Year and then taken another 2-3 weeks to eat which have been fine on a foil board.


Ideally 24 hours should be left between covering with marzipan, and then with the sugarpaste, and I have for important celebration/Christening cakes, but with Christmas cakes I tend not to bother leaving them 24 hours following the marzipan...I never have enough time in December as it is!!! 


I am now trying to learn how to do sponges....I find the time pressure of icing them quite daunting,


I always cook my fruit cakes with a shallow roasting pan with an inch of water in in the bottom of the oven to stop them drying out, as they can take a few hours to cook properly.  I'm not sure if this will work better than the bake easy strips as I've never used them...but surely over the course of a few hours THEY would dry out too, so maybe the pan of water is a better way as it is easy to top it up with boiling water, maybe someone can clarify this for me.


I once forgot about half of an uniced Christmas cake, and found it in its tin 18 months later just wrapped in foil, and it was fine to eat...a LITTLE  bit dry, but I fed it there and then, and it was fine! If the bride definitely wants to keep it for more than year (maybe for a future child's baptism), then it will freeze, but remember to remove the icing/fondant/marzipan prior to freezing, as these don't freeze so Sister inlaw didn't and she struggled to remove the frozen icing before getting it re-iced ready for my niece's baptism!


Sorry to take so long to answer you, if anything is not clear let me know icon_biggrin.gif Good luck!

post #4 of 9
Definitely feed a fruit cake! I tend to make a fruit cake about 4 months before the event and begin by leaving the fruit to soak in some brandy for a few days before even getting to the baking (giving it a good shake each day). After that, i give it about 1-2tbsp every week or so. The difference between a 'fed' and non fed cake is incredible. I have heard that you can use a sugar syrup to similar effect instead of alcohol if there are non-drinkers but I have never tried it. Good luck icon_smile.gif
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Wow! My first post on this forum/webiste and I am very impressed by the response - thanks so much for taking the time to answer.


I should have specified my type of fruit cake - I think the ones I have tried are all considered to to be rich fruit cakes, like christmas cakes but they really differ in their advice of when to make - Nigella, Delia Smith and Mich Turner all give recipes for rich fruit cakes that can be made up to 6 weeks before needed (which I find weird because I thought fruit cake lasted a LONG time) and then Lindy Smith says hers must be made at least 3 months in advance for a wedding to ensure that it cuts nicely.


So far I like the 'look' of Mich Turner's rich fruit cake the best but no idea how it tastes because I don't like fruit cake. I have asked several members of my family to tase test and they have all said it is nice so going to have to hope that they're not just being kind!


I always pre-soak my fruit, I always put a tray of water in the oven but now think I may have been a bit heavy handed with the brandy when feeding - poked it with a skewer and then just spooned a couple of spoonfuls over - ooops!


The bride is going to cut the cake on cake on the day so not concerned about it keeping well after.


What do you think the latest you could make a rich fruit cake before it is eaten - I gather it needs a little time to develop it's flavours - but could this be as little as a few days?


Still can't decide when to marzipan and sugar paste - just want one tier out the way before I have to tackle the 12" madeira and 9" chocolate cake, as they will have to be iced much closer to the day.


Thanks once again

post #6 of 9

The latest I have ever made a fruit cake before an 'event' was about 10 days.  Well, I say 'event', a bride decided she wanted to try a fruit cake as one of her samples so I had to whip it up last minute.  I think it got fed twice and still tasted lovely.  To me, it was not quite as rich as one that has been left for a few months but the bride (who said she wasn't a big fan of fruit cake) loved it and even asked for a tier!  The leftovers of that cake are still wrapped up in my cupboard and will be used for other samples or my own Christmas cake this year...whichever comes first!  People don't seem to request fruit cake anymore which I think is a shame.  As for icing them, I have marzipaned and iced mini-fruit cakes 2 weeks before they were served and had no problems at all.  I was worried that they would dry out but as they for for a charity event 200 miles away, I had to deliver them when I was in the area - i needn't have worried as the host said they went down a treat.  I believe that if you are making a fruit cake and icing it with Royal icing 'the traditional way' then you have to build it up in layers over many days to allow time to set...that kind of indicates that you need a good few weeks!  Now, if i was doing a big fruit cake, I would probably be happy to marzipan and ice it 3-4 weeks before hand...providing you have sealed it properly (no room for nasties to grow), I can't see there being a problem and it can only continue to mature.

Happy baking :-)

post #7 of 9

It all depends on the recipe, how long before the cutting you need to make it.  I do not feed my cakes after cooking but I do soak the fruit in alcohol beforehand.  This can vary from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, depending on what sort of mood I am in.  I have cut it a few days later and it has been fine where as my mother refuses to cut the ones that I give her for a few months so they can mature.  Always keep in mind that boiled fruit cakes are not meant to be iced but eaten straight away.  They are prone to going mouldy if iced and left for a bit. So avoid these for your decorating.

post #8 of 9

Hi! I baked two Rich Fruit Cakes(there is alcohol inside them) two days ago & have now wrapped them up in cling wrap and packed them into a plastic tupper ware.


They have not been iced or covered with marzipan. I have not covered them with alcohol soaked cheese cloths before packing them away.

The wedding is on the 14th Of September. Can I leave them this way in a pantry? (This will be the easiest option for me) 

or Do I have to repack them ie with alcohol soaked cheese cloth, cling wrap and then in metal tins? (I am not sure I can find metal tins here, are metal tins crucial?)

Please help a Newbie :)

post #9 of 9
Hopefully others will advise better but I have never heard of keeping rich fruit cakes in cling film – wrapped in greaseproof paper/baking parchment and then wrapped in tinfoil is the way I have always seen it done. I don’t know if there is a specific reason clingfilm is a bad idea but I’d suggest the paper and then foil if at all possible. Although there is alcohol in the cakes I think the discussions above about feeding the cake would still help it, especially since the wedding is not for a while. I hadn’t heard of the alcohol soaked cloth before – I’d guess that would be instead of feeding it since the cloth would effectively feed the cake as it rests.
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