With St Patrick's Day in mind, here's a fruit cake that revels in Irish whiskey. Paler and with a softer crumb than most fruit cakes because of the addition of creme fraiche, this luxurious cake needs no more than a dusting of icing sugar for serving. Of course you can use a different spirit, but why not get into the spirit of the day with a little "water of life"?
300g dried fruit (use any combination of sultanas, raisins, currants, figs, prunes)
100ml Irish whiskey
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
200g dark brown sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
220g full-fat creme fraiche (or full-fat sour cream)
icing sugar for dusting
1. Place the dried fruit in a bowl and stir in the whiskey. Cover with a plate and leave to soak overnight* at room temperature, stirring a few times.
2. Preheat oven to 175C (185C conventional). Grease and flour a 23cm bundt tin or 23cm round spring-form tin. Set aside.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a bowl and set aside.
4. Place butter, sugar and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place, and beat on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla, then, on low speed, add the flour mix, alternating with the creme fraiche. Remove the bowl from the machine and, using a rubber spatula, fold in the soaked dried fruit, including the syrupy alcohol.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 50-60 minutes (60-65 minutes if using the spring-form tin), or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes in the tin, before releasing the cake and transferring onto a serving plate. Let the cake cool, then dust with icing sugar before serving.
*Tip: It's best to soak the dried fruits in the whiskey the day before, to plump them up and inject flavour. But if you're short on time, heat the fruit and alcohol very gently in either the microwave or on the stove-top until most of the alcohol has evaporated.