A Love Actually Perfect British Holiday Fruit Cake (for IHCC, too)

This month’s theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is all-things cake.   I’m going off the Ruth Reichl path for this month.  I vowed to stick with Ruth throughout the IHCC challenge (even during the pot luck weeks), but when it comes to the holidays, I can’t help but think of the domestic goddess herself, Nigella Lawson.  And, is there a more quintessential cake for the holidays than fruit cake?

From the goddess’ own lips comes this “fabulous” introduction to her Chocolate Fruit Cake:

This is the perfect cut-and-come again cake for any time of the year. It lasts for ages, but has the squidgy fabulousness of something so much less serviceable-sounding. I know there are a lot of ingredients listed, but you don’t have to do much more than bung them in a pan and stir, and even then only lightly. The hardest thing you have to do for this recipe is wrap the tin with brown paper. And I’m not being disingenuous: it is the sort of task that makes a klutz like me hyperventilate, but I find there is nearly always someone around who can deal with that part with magnificent ease.  (from Nigella’s website)
Don’t you just love her?
Here’s her chocolate fruit cake in all its “squidgy fabulousness”!

Chocolate Fruit Cake

Nigella Lawson

Published in Feast (2014)

How could I not love this “squidgy” recipe where all you have to do is “bung” it in a pan?


  • 3 c. pitted prunes (I used 18 oz. petite prunes and roughly chopped them.)
  • 1 3/4 c. raisins (I used golden raisins.)
  • 1 c. currants (I used a few dried cranberries to round out a cup.)
  • 2 oz. candied orange peel (I substituted candied citron.)
  • 1 1/2 sticks soft unsalted butter
  • 1 c. dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. Tia Maria or other coffee liqueur (I used Kahlua.)
  • 2-3 oranges (juice and zest)  (I used 8 oz. fresh juice and about 3-4 T. finely grated zest.)
  • 1 t. mixed spice (I used 1/2 t. of cinnamon, and 1/8  of each of the following nutmeg, clove, all spice and ginger.)
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. almond meal
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda


  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the sides and bottom of a 8-inch round, 3½ inch deep, loose-bottomed cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment. Before proceeding any further, read the following which explains how to do it if you need the encouragement. The paper should come up higher than the sides of the tin; think of a lining that’s twice as deep as the tin. Cut out two circles of paper, and two very long rectangles that will fit along the sides of the tin coming up from it like a top hat. Before you put the rectangular cut-out paper in, fold one long side in of both pieces, as if turning up a hem of about 1 inch, and then take some scissors and snip into this hem, at intervals of about 1 inch – as if you were making a rough frill. Grease the tin, lay one circle on the bottom and get one of your long pieces, then fit with the frilly edge along the bottom, which you press down to sit flat on the circle to hold it in place. Press the paper well into the sides, and repeat with the second piece. Now place the second circle of paper on the bottom of the tin, but on top of the two pressed-down frilly edges, which will also help to hold the pieces around the edge in place. Finally, wrap the tin with brown parcel paper, again making it higher than the sides, and tie it in place with kitchen twine.
  2. Put the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, Tia Maria, orange juice and zests, spice and unsweetened cocoa into a large wide saucepan and bring to the boil gently, stirring as the butter melts. Simmer for 10 minutes, and then take off the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
  3. After the 30 minutes are up, it will have cooled a little (though you could leave it for longer if you wanted). Add the beaten eggs, flour, almond meal, baking powder and baking soda, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula, however you like, to combine.
  4. Pour the fruit cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place in the oven and bake for 1¾–2 hours, by which time the top of the cake should be firm but will have a shiny and sticky look. If you insert a cake tester into the center of the cake it will still be a little gooey in the middle.
  5. Put the cake on a cooling rack. It will hold its heat and take a while to cool, but once it has, unmould it from the tin and, if you don’t want to eat it immediately (and like any fruit cake it has a very long life), wrap it in baking parchment and then in foil and place in a tin.

Yield: 10 slices

The whole wrapping bit did lose me and I didn’t have a round pan that fit her description.  Therefore, I found it much easier to line three loaf pans without a lot of hubbub.   I put about 2 cups of batter in each loaf pan.For a more traditional fruit cake recipe (and a family favorite), see last year’s fruitcake post, but this might be a new favorite here.  These cakes smell delicious from the start of the process to the end.   The simmering dried fruits give off a wonderful holiday aroma.   Pop it in the oven and your house will be filled with a chocolate/citrus smell of Christmas.  Eating it is another whole revelation (and elevation).

It’s definitely better the next day.

Because of the whole “squidgy fabulousness” of this cake (along with the rest of Nigella’s truly quirky British description of the recipe), I thought this would be the perfect accompaniment for this month’s Food ‘n Flix feature, Love Actually.

You can read the announcement post here.  I can just see Karen (Emma Thompson) whipping this up to take to her hideously horrible husband’s office for a surprise visit.   Or, I could see Natalie making this for a homey Christmas present for the PM.  (You know how he likes his chocolate biscuits.)

And, there’s more than a few fruitcakes abounding in the film.


I’m hosting Food ‘n Flix this month and I fully realize that this film is not overflowing with an abundance of food.   But, I do think it’s a great little holiday gem and it never fails to get me in the spirit of Christmas.  Let me tell you why I LOVE Love Actually:

I tear up during the opening credits when I start hearing Hugh Grant’s voice-over.

I love that British sensibility (read quirkiness).

I just want to swoop in and take care of Daniel and Sam.

My heart melts as Jamie (Colin Firth) butchers the Portuguese language.

Nobody takes themselves really seriously, except maybe stupid and hideous and horrible Harry (Alan Rickman).  I do not love him.

I love the PM’s chivalric diplomacy when it comes to dealing with the President (Billy Bob Thornton).

Who doesn’t love a school Christmas pageant with a lobster (and an octopus and a whale)?

Then, there’s true love and the Christmas spirit abounding throughout!  (Love is all around us!)

I hope you join in the fun and holiday spirit this month!   For more information, click here.

Join us in 2019 for the January feature, Book Club hosted at CulturEatz.


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