The Accidental Fruit Cake

To be honest, if you substitute accident-prone for accidental, that’s a pretty good description of me, but the title refers to a cake I was making for my friend Simon to say thanks for a favour. I meant to follow a recipe for an old-fashioned boiled fruit cake in the sainted Mary Berry’s excellent Ultimate Cake Book but as usual I embarked headlong on the task assuming I had all the ingredients to hand in my smugly well-stocked cupboards.

Needless to say, I didn’t. This is how events unfolded.

Image of alarm clock with hands at 05300530: Wake up at sparrows’ fart early and decide it’s the ideal time to make Simon’s cake.  (Not obligatory, most sane people bake in normal daylight hours.)

0545: Rummage in the cupboard and find I have all of the ingredients except the raisins. Consider ‘phoning a friend to borrow some and realise she’s probably still fast asleep. Decide to substitute chopped apricots.

0600: Weigh and chop the fruit where necessary and put it all in a large pan. Add the butter. Add the condensed milk. Realise it’s not condensed milk but evaporated milk. Panic briefly and do a quick online search to find out the difference. Websites say condensed milk is simply sweetened evaporated milk. Taste the mixture and decide it’s sweet enough. So that’s ok then.

0605: Read further to find most sites say you can’t substitute one for the other. Look at mix in bowl and decide to chance it as otherwise the hens, which are the usual receptacles for my kitchen errors, will go into cardiac arrest from all the dried fruit.

0615: Add the  remaining ingredients, pour into prepared cake tin, place in oven and hope for the best.

Image of cake being cutTwo hours later: it’s out of the oven and it looks fine but feel I can’t inflict it on Simon without tasting it.

By lunchtime: it’s cold enough to cut and it gets a big thumbs-up from my guinea pigs the builders. It’s moist, dense and very fruity.

It reminds me of the fruit cake my mum used to serve up with a wedge of Cheddar.

So then: embark on second cake for Simon and realise I’ve now run out of sultanas, eggs, mixed spice …

The Accidental Fruit Cake


Image of slice of cake1 x 410g tin of evaporated milk

150g butter

225g dried apricots, chopped small (to roughly the same size as the sultanas)

225 g sultanas

175 currants

175 glace cherries, rinsed of syrup and halved

225g self-raising flour

2 tspn mixed spice

1 tspn ground cinnamon

2 eggs

Blanched almonds to decorate (optional)


Pre-heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2. Lightly grease and line the sides and base of an 18cm (7″) deep round cake tin with greased greaseproof paper.

Image of dried fruits in pan with butter and milk

Pour the evaporated milk into a large saucepan and add the butter and prepared dried fruit. Place over a low heat until the butter has melted into the mix and then simmer gently for five minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Image of Simon eating cake

Action shot! Simon tucks in

Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the spices. Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and the cooled fruit mixture. Quickly stir it all together until well blended.

Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the top. Arrange blanched almonds on top, if using, pressing lightly into the cake.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for around an hour and three-quarters to two hours or until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to get completely cold before cutting.

NB: Because of my substitutions this is no longer Mary Berry’s original recipe, although it works perfectly well. If you’d like hers, please buy her book! 

12 thoughts on “The Accidental Fruit Cake

  1. Ha, this sounds like most of my baking efforts! And I too have fallen foul of the condensed/evaporated milk trap, when making a slow-cooked curry – it made beggar all difference. Did Simon like his cake?

    • Wow, you are superwoman! I’m afraid mine had more to do with insomnia than efficiency, but you’ve probably guessed that bit already. It turned out well, though, thanks.

  2. I was lucky enough to receive a slice of the original cake via the builders & without a doubt it was the best slice of fruit cake I have ever eaten. The evaporated milk seemed to give it an almost toffee apple flavour. I nibbled away at it like a little mouse as it did not want the taste sensation to end!!

  3. Hi Linda, will this cake keep well after cooking as I was thinking about making one now but saving it for Christmas ?

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