You know what I mean. Those neat (or perhaps not) files of copious magazine clippings. The sticky tabs festooning the pages of the latest additions to your cookbook collection. All those fabulous sounding new recipes that are on your definitely-must-try-soon list.
But . . . you get another new cookbook. Next month’s issue of your favourite food magazine hits the shelves. A slew of intriguing recipes appears in this week’s newspaper columns. You stumble across a new blog. And those new recipes you had bookmarked get shoved back to make room for the even newer ones, and so the cycle repeats itself endlessly, like a CD played on “continuous” mode.
Or suppose you do get around to making one of those bookmarked recipes. It turns out well and you like it, but there a few tweaks you think would improve it. You’ll try them out next time you make the recipe . . . but there are so many recipes to try . . . why make something twice when you have so many other items still on your list . . .
This cake is one of those satisfactions.
The original version featured in my cookbook of vintage Buck County recipes, and it also made an early appearance on this blog. It was an eggless, moist, spicy and delicious fruitcake, and everyone in my family loved it. In the book I wrote: “It was a popular style of cake because it was so cheap to make: no eggs or milk. Traditionally, it would not have contained butter either, but lard . . . if you replaced it with shortening, this cake would even be suitable for vegans.”
I wanted very much to point this out. However, I felt some guilt in doing so because I had never actually made a vegan version of it myself. I resolved to do so at the first opportunity.
Ahem. Yes. That was over a year ago. However, when MyProtein sent me a jar of their virgin coconut oil to review, my first thought was, “Aha, I know what I’m making with this!”
However, I didn’t think that the raisins and Christmas-esque spices of the original cake would harmonize very well with the delicate, but distinct, aroma of the coconut oil. (Virgin coconut oil is not nearly so subdued in flavour as its refined counterparts.) So I chose to go with a combination of dried apricots and ginger instead, hoping that would work better.
You are probably thinking at this point, “Alexandra, it’s December! We’re thinking about our Christmas menus; why are you blathering on about summer and flowers and tea parties?”
Well, you can always just make a note of it, you know. And then, next year, when you’re planning your first alfresco dinner party of the season, you’ll know just where to look back to on that list . . .
7 tablespoons (100 g) virgin coconut oil
1 ⅔ cup (365 g) light brown sugar
1 ⅔ cups (400 ml) water
1 ½ cups (200 g) chopped dried apricots
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 ball stem ginger, finely diced
2 ½ cups (360 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (4 g) baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
- Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sugar, water, apricots, stem ginger and powdered ginger; bring to a full boil.
- Reduce the heat slightly and continue to boil for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from the heat and let the mixture cool to lukewarm, about 1 hour. It should be syrupy and slightly viscous.
- Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and grease the sides with a bit of coconut oil or another non-dairy baking fat. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder. Dissolve the baking soda in a teaspoon of hot water. Add to the cooled mixture along with the sifted dry ingredients. Stir well. Pour into prepared pan.
- Bake until the top of the cake is a warm golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Do not open the oven door until the 1 hour mark. This cake is extremely moist (which is what makes it so delicious!), but without the structure provided by eggs, it can be susceptible to falling if heat is lost by opening the oven during baking. So, unless your oven runs extremely hot and you can see that it is already getting brown on top, resist the temptation to take a peek!
- Transfer to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Then run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it and remove from the pan. Finish cooling on a wire rack before cutting into squares or slices.
- A dusting of powdered sugar can dress this cake up enough for an appearance at the dinner table.
- This cake freezes extremely well, and will also hold up quite nicely at room temperature, covered, for a few days. I know it will keep for at least two days—but I’ve never had any last beyond that, although I think it might keep even longer . . .
Yield: 1 8-inch square cake, serves 12 to 16