Boiled Raisin/Fruit Cake

Do not skip this post if you don't like fruit cake.  
Read on and you may find you've only tasted badly baked cake.

Boiled Raisin/Fruit Cake is another recipe from my friend Patricia.  You might remember her Lemon Squares posted a few weeks ago.  Patricia introduce me to this cake shortly after she was married, while living in that tiny apartment.  

Mom always made fruit cakes for Christmas.  I remember the big bowls of dried and candied fruit that had to be cut by hand weeks before the holidays.  But this was a different kind of cake.  It was lighter in texture almost like a ginger bread, very moist and spicy with lots of plump raisins. You didn't have to make this weeks before Christmas either, as it was ready to eat the day after it was made.   Mom always said it wasn't real cake because real cake had eggs and this one didn't.  She'd put a piece in her mouth, chew it up, roll her eyes and then proclaim it was alright but not real cake.  So I started adding a couple of eggs to the batter whenever I made this to send to my sister and Mom. I guess I've turned into my mother because now I usually make this cake with eggs.  

When I was a young teacher working in New Brunswick this cake was called "War Cake" because it could be made without butter, eggs or milk which were rationed during the two World Wars.  I believe the original "War Cake" was made with 2 or 3 tablespoons shortening or rendered fat instead of butter.  My cake is a far cry from "War Cake" with a full cup of butter and now I've added the eggs.  If you're trying to cut back on butter and eggs, this cake can be successfully made with less butter (I've even used oil) and you can leave out the eggs.  (But it won't be real cake!)

The original recipe has about 2 cups of raisins but I would take that as a minimum amount.  I use about 4 cups of raisins for a raisin cake or a mix of raisins and mixed candied fruit and cherries for a fruit cake. Chopped dates can also be added but don't boil these with the raisins as they'll disintegrate.  Add them when you mix the cake together.  You can use any kind of chopped dried fruit as well.  Dried blueberries would be awesome.  I like nuts in fruit cake so I add about 1 cup chopped nuts.  Today I used pecans but any favourite nut can be used. 

Fruit cake must be baked slowly in a low temperature oven.  It cannot be rushed.  I think half the reason some people don't like fruit cake is because they've only eaten burnt cake.  When raisins and sugar burn the resulting taste is a bitter burny flavour which will permeate the cake and linger on the tongue.  I don't like that kind of cake, either.  A good fruit cake whether a boiled fruit or traditional batter type will be sweet, spicy and fragrant with a healthy fruit to batter ratio.  There shouldn't be a hint of a burned raisin or cake edge.  When you enter a home where a fruit cake is baking you should say, "Mmmmm, smells wonderful!"  NOT "Ewe, yuck!  What did you burn?"

If you've never made a fruit cake, this is the one to start with.  I have improved the mixing instructions to avoid lumps of flour in the baked cake.  Mixing flour into the liquid, as the original recipe instructs, often makes for a lumpy mixture that is almost impossible to smooth out.  If you follow my instructions your batter will be smooth and lump-free.

Now, if you are one of those people who don't like raisins (!!!!), you are beyond help and should stick to vanilla or chocolate cake at Christmas.  No! No!  Try a bite of this cake, please.  

Bubbling fruit and spices.

Boiled Raisin/Fruit Cake
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar (can use brown sugar)
2-4 cups raisins or 2 cups raisins and 2 cups mixed fruit and candied cherries
1 cup nuts, roughly chopped, optional
1 teaspoon allspice
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoons cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water

Boil the above ingredients together for a 5 minutes.   Cover and let cool to room temperature.  If you boil the fruit before you go to bed you can leave it overnight. When fruit is cool drain off liquid; set aside liquid and fruit in separate containers.

Grease and line with parchment or brown paper a 10-inch tube pan or 2 loaf pans.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.
Creaming the butter and sugar makes for a smooth batter.
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½  teaspoons baking soda
3 cups flour

Cream the following together:
½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

If using, beat in:
2 eggs, optional

Into the creamed butter mixture, add the dry ingredients alternately with the saved liquid from the fruit, mixing well after each addition. (You should add 3 amounts of flour and 2 amounts of liquid.) Fold in the drained boiled fruit, mixing well.

Fold in the fruit and nuts.

Place cake batter into prepared pan(s). Bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours for large cake; 1 ½ hours for loaf cakes.   

Check on cakes about 20 minutes before the time is up to make sure they are not burning.  When you think the cake is done use a cake tester or toothpick to check for doneness. The tester should come out clean.  Sometimes a cake only needs another few minutes to finish baking so keep a watchful eye on that oven.  The secret to any fruit cake is low heat and a long baking time.  If the cake seems to be browning too fast turn oven down by 25 degrees and cover cake loosely with foil.  

I used a small tube pan and mini loaf pans to bake the cake.
An ice cream scoop makes easy portioning for the loaf pans.

Always test for doneness using a cake tester or toothpick.  
A clean, crumb-free tester indicates the cake is baked.

Cool cakes in pans at least 10 minutes before turning out on cooling rack. 

A marathon cake baking session is finished.  
The little cakes will go in the "Cheer Baskets" for the church senior citizens and shut-ins.

Ah, now, what's that I spy with the fruit cake?  Could it be a glass of Purity Syrup???

Spicy, sweet and fragrant, moist with plump fruit. What's not to like about that?


  1. your comments about Nan make me giggle!! too true....

    I am going to try the sugarless cake...

    1. The sugarless one is good. I have one in the freezer for you. :)

  2. How much water is needed when boiling the ingredients for this cake?

  3. Sorry I forgot to put that in the recipe. It's fixed now. The amount is 2 cups of water.


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