Michele Day’s fruit cake

It was during the fete season, and I was, as usual, picking through the jams and chutneys and cakes, when I picked up a cake labelled ‘wholemeal boiled fruit cake’. It felt heavy, looked full of fruit, and, despite its weight, I felt sure it would be moist. But things aren’t always as they look. I bought it, took it home, and ate it in one day. It was indeed what it seemed to be, and full of flavour as well.

I wrote glowingly about the cake, started a network to find its maker and the recipe, and, before you could could knock off a block of chocolate, there was the maker at the end of the phone.

‘How did you do it?’ I said, a little nervously to Michele Day, mother of two sets of twins.

‘I went out with a boy when I was about 18,’ she said, and I fumbled with the phone a little more nervously, ‘and this was pretty much the recipe of his mother.’ That was it, nothing more. She was not, she said, any great cook.

‘It was a fluke,’ she said.

‘And why the bicarbonate of soda at the boiling stage?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘It has been trial and error. I just adjusted the recipe to suit my tastes – replacing white sugar with raw, white flour with wholemeal, varying the spices, and this was it.’

I had the recipe in my hand and started cooking. It all seemed so easy. It couldn’t be true. Ten minutes preparation, an hour’s cooling off, 90 minutes cooking, and there it was: light, moist, blackened at the edges. Just like the one at the fete. I had the wonder in my hands, for now and forever.

I made it again and took it to a party. Rave reviews. Naturally I took all the credit. Now, it was mine. That’s the beauty of sharing recipes. Now it’s yours too.

2 cups raisins

2 cups sultanas

1 cup currants

300g unsalted butter

2 short cups raw sugar

2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda

3 cups water

2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

dash powdered cloves

4 well-beaten eggs

2 cups wholemeal plain flour


Put the raisins, sultanas, currants, butter, sugar, bicarbonate soda and water in a large saucepan, and boil for about 5 minutes, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Keep a close watch on affairs or the violent reaction of the bicarbonate of soda will cause the lot to go over the top. Set aside to cool — about an hour.


Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and eggs, folding through the mixture. Then fold in the flour, bit by bit, until it is well blended. The mix will be quite fluid. Perhaps this is the secret to the lightness: a minimum of flour to a lot of fruit makes for a very light mix. It tastes very much like a perfect Christmas pudding.


I greased a tin the first time, and the bottom stuck. Second up I used grease-proof paper, and it worked like a dream. Cook for about 90 minutes at 170°C, or until a knife tests clean.