Tuesday, 1 March 2011
A Fruitcake by Any Other Name…Review of 'My Cottage Kitchen' Rich Fruitcake
There is something distinctly - and pleasingly - British about the fruitcake. This makes it so tragic when the shopper sees the many dried out, margarine laden and distinctly unimaginative attempts to capture the essence of a much loved teatime snack on sale at stores across the country. I was in desperate straights; my grandmother used to make a wonderful Christmas cake topped with decadent brandy butter icing (which would last me a few months) but sadly she has decided to discontinue this tradition! My only alternative was to go for tea at some overpriced hotel in London (where they give the stingiest little finger of Dundee cake) or tolerate the lacklustre efforts displayed in plastic wrap on the supermarket shelves. Not even Marks & Spencer was able to seduce me with its promise of moist, juicy fruits, lacings of brandy and a delicate crumb.
Salvation was closer to hand than I thought. I won’t say that I was having fruitcake withdrawal symptoms but I was getting increasingly fed up that it was so hard to find a decent cake in the capital. It looked like I was going to have to go to the trouble of making it for myself and then wait patiently for the maceration and aging process to finish. With an air of despondence I sat down at my computer and consoled myself with a quick look at Twitter to see if my fan base had increased. Seeing I had some new messages I scanned through them with a casual air as one who has lost his taste for all things cake-related. There were ‘thanks for the follows…’, exchanged pleasantries and the like. Suddenly I looked at one message that I had receive from @MCKitchenHQ, more commonly known to the locale of Shropshire (where the company is based) as My Cottage Kitchen run from the home of the cook Ursula Evans. Essentially the message rose to the challenge set out in the bio for my Twitter page, which I reproduce verbatim:
‘thanks for the follow. Looking for new tasting experiences....have you tasted my cakes yet?’
The gauntlet had been thrown down and I felt it was only fair in my cake-less torpor to step up the metaphorical plate. I responded with glee, I checked out the website and well shot pictures of carefully prepared cakes made my mouth water. I dispatched my address and waited with anticipation for Ursula’s cake to arrive in the post – I have never heard of sending a cake in the mail but, now I have had time to think, it is something that I think should happen more often!
A tin arrived at my door on Wednesday lunchtime, be-sashed with a Union Jack ribbon it was the perfect size for solo consumption! Stripping off the wrapping I lifted the lid and unleashed the most delicious aroma…
Is there any smell more reassuring than that of a well made, rich fruitcake full of juicy raisins, aromatic mixed peel and a good slug of brandy? Perhaps, dear reader, you associate a fruitcake with the smoke overtones of a cup of Lapsang Souchong or the delicate citrus undertones of a cup of Earl Grey. You can keep your cups of the nation’s favourite beverage! I personally like it with a couple of glasses of Australian pudding wine and only then can you feel really indulgent (which is how any good fruitcake should make you feel). A glance at the ingredients on the base of the tin confirms the high volume of fruit and spices contained within, but this is nothing compared to the absolutely delicious and complex taste of the article itself.
Removing the surrounding cling film I could already feel the soft delicacy of the cake far removed from the dense, dry bricks found on the shelves of the supermarket. The top was crammed with all manner of dried fruits: figs, prunes, apricots glace cherries and a delicious array of nuts. The knife went through as if it was butter, but the cake was so moist that it was not the neatest one in the world, I could already tell that it was going to be deliciously sticky with an almost melt in the mouth texture and I was not to be disappointed.
The taste was just awesome and more than lived up to the cool packaging and enticing look of the cake. There was a deep spice with the slightest hint of caramel and molasses. One thing that I really appreciated was that the fruit and the brandy had been allowed to speak for themselves and were not bogged down in too much sugar. It is so often that both home-made and mass-produced products have way too much sugar in their cake mix, making it over-sweet and sickly. This had none of that sickly sensation, in fact it was dangerously moreish!
The texture was surprisingly light and crumbly and implied that Ursula had carefully ensured that the cake mixture received the minimum amount of handling from conception to creation – which is how it should be. There was a generous portion of fruit, but not so much that is became a heap of raisins with an incidental scattering of crumbs, which was evenly spread. Ultimately, each bite gave away the amount of consideration and attention that Ursula had put into the finished product. This is indeed a fantastic cake and I have absolutely no reservations in saying that it is well worth the great-value price that it commands. It is wonderful to see such fine products coming from the Shires and it is highly encouraging that there are people like Ursula Evans who have the skill and passion to craft such wonderful delicacies.
PS. If you like the sound of My Cottage Kitchen please make sure that you check out the website to order your very own scrumptious fruitcake: http://www.mycottagekitchen.co.uk