Fruit Cake – Nan’s Best Boiled Fruit Cake Brings Festive Joy

Pineapple boiled fruitcake

Nan-at-Darlington-aged-82My dear Nanna Margaret (Alterator nee Schofield) God bless her, was a champion Country Women’s Association (CWA) cook, one who carried on the best traditions of rural baking when she came to live in the city of Sydney at the end of World War I.

Christmas would not be the same in our family if she didn’t boil up the Christmas pudding in her copper in the corner of the laundry … or roast a fabulous Turkey in her early Kooka stove. These skills she passed to her daughter Rita, who passed them to me, along with some of her recipes.

Her Christmas Pudding in a Cloth remains our highest-ranking post each year for some 10 – 12 weeks leading up to Xmas since it was first published in 2013 and if she was around today she would be happy so many people enjoy it.

Occasionally I receive some feedback, but with that always comes a request. Didn’t she make a Fruit cake?  Well she did, but perhaps not the conventional sort you would be used to.

Nan’s great favourite was a Boiled Fruit Cake. She loved its ‘moist’ style and how easy it was to make at a time when it was very busy preparing festive feasts. She said it lasted well too.

Pineapple boiled fruitcakeShe could bake one for herself and keep it in an airtight tin for months, imbibing on a very small piece from time to time with her cup of afternoon tea– a guilty treat for a woman who always did things sparingly and unselfishly.

Nan lived through two world wars and a great depression and so you never knew when another would unexpectedly arrive, she would say, warning us to always be prudent.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017

Margaret’s Best Boiled Fruit Cake


250gm Butter
Cup Brown Sugar (generous)
375 grams dried Mixed Fruit
½ Cup each of prunes, dessert Figs and Hazelnuts (Chopped)
A Tin Golden Circle Crushed Pineapple (well drained)


3 Eggs (large) beaten
1 ¼ cups Self Raising Flour
1 ¼ cups Plain Flour
1 ½ tsp Mixed Spice
½ tsp Bicarb Soda

3 Tbs Apricot Jam


Heat Oven to 180 degrees

Prepare Tin… I always line it with baking paper – easy to peel off later.

Melt Brown Sugar in large saucepan
Add fruits plus ½ cup each of brandy and water, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes.

Allow to cool.
Stir in nuts, add eggs, then sifted flours, spice and bicarb.

Pour into a deep 20cm Cake Tin (prepared)
Bake 1 ¼ – 1 1/2 hours and test with a skewer
Pour over 2-3 tbs Brandy while still warm
Cool in tin

Turn out and add her special twist, a squeeze of lemon juice and gently heat the Apricot Jam and glaze the cake.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017

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