an eye on a fruity loaf


It started off as one cake a week, usually on a friday, something to go with the builders last cup of tea before they packed up for the weekend. Then it was two. ‘After all, They’re all working so hard and Tim loves a slice of cake ‘ my mum said sounding just like her mum. Now, as house renovations come to an end and my Mum and Dad contemplate life without Tim the kindest and hardest working builder in Dorset, Tim’s brother-in-law, Matt and his son Sam, the electrician Glen, the plumber Richard and Linda the painter, mum is making almost a-cake-a-day. Two cakes a day once my brother and his wife, my sister and her husband and I all descended on my parents with all our kids. The kettle didn’t know what had hit it. ‘Shall I put the kettle on?‘ has chimed as reliably as a chiming clock these last two weeks. The answer is almost always yes to the offer of tea in the Roddy house, even from me, the only member of the family to properly defect to the coffee side. ‘Would you like a bit of cake too‘ my mum asks, now sounding like aunty May.


The house my parents are renting is opposite the house being worked on, so there is an almost endless steam of back and forth, of cake and cake compliments being passed across the road that divides the two houses in Symondsbury village. We were all sitting around the kitchen table of the rented house drinking tea, eating cake, bickering mildly and doing the quick crossword when Tim popped his head round the low kitchen door – ‘It’s a house for bloody hobbits’ my tall dad keeps saying, often while rubbing a bump on his head. Once the query about the brickwork had been resolved, I asked Tim which was his favorite cake. ‘I like them all’ he said diplomatically. I persisted. ‘If you had to pick one?’  He paused as if he had all the time in the world, clearly thinking hard about cake. ‘That lemon drizzle cake was lovely, but then again, so was the Bakewell tart.’  There was yet another longish pause in which Tim turned to say hello to a woman walking up the hill, before he turned back. ‘My favorite is the fruity loaf your mum made today’  he said while eyeing up another fruity loaf in the middle of the table.

The fruity loaf was my favourite too, full of fruit that’s plump and drunk on tea scented with orange zest, sweet but not overly so. The final cake is softly crumbly, but squishes together beautifully between your fingers. Mum made three during the two weeks I was in Dorset and I ate slice after slice with sharp, smooth Godminster cheddar and cups of English breakfast tea at my parent’s kitchen table during book editing breaks (I am nearly there, nearly).


Fruity teacake

300 g mixed dried fruit, berries and cherries
225 ml hot tea ( we used English breakfast)
the zest and juice of a large unwaxed orange
50 g butter
100 g light brown sugar
1 large egg
225 g self-raising flour
4 tablespoons of demerara sugar.

You will need a 2 lb loaf tin.

Put the dried fruit, hot tea, orange juice and zest in a large bowl, cover with cling film and leave for at least 4 hours or, even better, over night.

Heat the oven to 180°/350 F and line a 2 lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat the egg into the butter and sugar mixture one by one and then add the flour and finally fold in the fruit mixture. Scrape the mixture into the lined loaf tin and sprinkle over the demerara sugar. Bake for an hour or until a skewer come out cleanly. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, before turning into a wire each to cool. Serve alone or with sharp cheese such as cheddar.



Filed under cakes and baking, fruitcake, Rachel's Diary, recipes

60 responses to “an eye on a fruity loaf

  1. Lovely to know you’re nearly there nearly. I’m here too now and so when you’re feeling able we should take a break together. And lovely cake. xxx

  2. Are your temps in centigrade? The Internet is global and we’re in the U.S. So perhaps a hint as to which would help?

    • rachel

      Hi LC – I have just added the temp in F too. I am aware that lots of readers are in the US, I am also wary of making mistakes when I add conversions (esp cups) as I don’t use them myself and I know it is sometimes not simply a case of googling the conversion. All best Rachel

      • Thanks.

        “Cups” and “ounces” can indeed be confusing. My wife got really serious about cooking some years back and discovered that grams can be far more precise as well as universal. So rather than using measuring cups or spoons, she uses a digital scale.

  3. Puss N Boots

    Dear Rache
    Lovely to see a post from you . Wondered if there was a typo? Only one egg in ingredients – not a lot, but “eggs” in the directions. Needs 2 eggs? P x

  4. Love this. The knowing all the people working on your house and offering them cake. The recipe, of course – being not too sweet, it can easily be a favourite of mine too; and the paper roll in the picture, the real immediacy of all the images. Love lots. x

    • rachel

      My mum is a master of providing tea and cake (my dad is a master at consuming them), the builders who really are the nicest you can imagine are making the need for tea and cake imperative. you are now in sicily, I am jealous xx

  5. Well, that looks absolutely delicious. Straight onto my to-bake list it goes!

  6. Phil

    Hi Rachel
    Been reading your stuff for years. As ever, great recipe and I’ll be trying it out soon. Love the site, the food, the passion for it all. Bon chance with the book. Phil

  7. healthgal

    Can I make thlis gluten free? I’d love to try it . Let me know what your suggestion would be.

    • rachel

      Hi there, Flour is an important element but I wonder if you could use one with out gluten, rice flour or ground almonds….I am sorry I am embarrassingly ignorant about gluten free cooking. I am going to ask a friend for you, Best R

  8. Fabulous, i have no builders but i do have gardeners and fencers, aren’t they going to be surprised!. c

  9. auds

    I have had builders in for months and keep them sweet with cake so will try this one next. Your parent’s house looks gorgeous. Home made cake and the Guardian crossword. Perfection!

    Good luck with the editing.

  10. Hi Rach—I was happy to see this post, learn about your mum’s quickbreads, the renovations, and of course, the progress in editing world. I’m certain you’ve found, as I did, that it works a completely different part of your brain–and once you get in the rhythm of it, goes faster than you imagined.

    • rachel

      Hi N and yes, yes, you do get into the swing of it…but then a tiny detail holds you up and you are back in the kitchen testing something like a maniac…I am nearly there though, lots of love R

  11. Maria

    Recipe looks brilliant – might try it next weekend. Sadly only two of us at home rather than the big gathering you describe, so I don’t make many cakes… I can always take any spare cake to the office though – it’ll get eaten up right quick there!

    • rachel

      Hi Maria and the cake keeps brilliantly which means you will easily eat it in two (my Dad and I polished off one cake over three days). thanks for reading along x

  12. Oh delightful! This and a roast chicken will be the first things I make when home from holidays. To really make it feel (and smell) like home.
    Good luck with editing (the hardest part no?) xx

    • rachel

      HI Frances, how the heck are you? I am missing all the blogs I love to read while my head is in this hole. It is a nice cake, make it, lots of love Rx

  13. Hilary

    oooh, on the home stretch!! Sending you good editing vibes }}}}}}}

  14. Fab post Rachel – am making the cake tonight!

  15. Oh yes. The Italians, like the French, don’t know what they’re missing, do they? Although the climate might have something to do with it…….

  16. laura

    Bentornata … lovely to read you again. Was in a bit of a withdrawal as I miss your turns of phrase, descriptions and explanations. Buon lavoro!

  17. Lynn D.

    I make a lovely cake with dried fruit boiled in coffee, butter, sugar and spices and then mixed with flour, no eggs at all. It looks very much like your mum’s cake. I’ll have to try it with tea.

  18. Amber

    Oh I do like this cake. I soaked the fruit on Sunday after reading your post and baked the loaf last night. Much appreciated in my tea-drinking and cake-eating household! Thank you for yet another recipe that works so well.

    • rachel

      I am glad you hear you too are a cake/tea committed household (I will be calling by) I urge you to try this recipe, it is a particularly good one x

  19. Bevelie Shember

    Hi Rachel, thank you for the recipe and your delicious prose that goes with it. I have just made the fruit loaf to give to a friend, I soaked the fruit overnight, very disciplined of me, and it has turned out beautifully. I have a fan oven, I think this is very common in the UK, gas hob and electric oven. It took a while to discover that I should put most cakes into a cold oven and it has brought my baking back to life with recipes turning out well. I hope your book will make it clear what temperature to use, I know ovens vary but a guide temperature is such a help. Many of my favourite writers, Nigel Slater, Hugh F-W only give what appear to be a standard electric temperature so I knock off 20 degrees and that is usually fine. However I am fascinated to see that Mary Berry now only gives a temperature for a fan oven. How helpful is that! Wonderful woman. I think for UK cooks it also plays to the majority as it is hard to buy an electric cooker that does not have a fan…. I am looking forward to buying your book, thank you for all the lovely diary entries.

    • rachel

      HI Bevelie,
      What good timing, I have been in meetings with the publishing house and we have been talking about just this. My editor is a star and has (unlike me) worked on many cookbooks and we will be including temps for both fan assisted and normal gas ovens. Thanks for taking the time to make this important point, all best Rx

  20. Such lovely memories and so good to see everyone! I will make that cake asap when I get back. Love a fruity loaf! Xxx

  21. Margit Van Schaick

    Rachel, you write so well about the essence of home and family. My very best friend is English. She often ends a phone call with”I’m going to have a cup of tea and some cake”. Wishing you all the best with your book! I think it’s going to be just fine!

  22. Koula

    This fruity loaf will become a favourite. I made it today and it was divine, the right mix of fruit, soft cake texture, zing from orange zest and the tea made it sing with flavour. Thank you and your Mum for sharing this recipe.

  23. It looks sticky and good. Love it.

  24. Rachel

    Rachel, when you write of adding the “fruit mixture”, should one pour the tea and orange juice into the cake batter too?

    P.S. CANNOT wait for your book! 🙂

    • rachel

      yes – virtually all of it will have been absorbed into the fruit. Rx

      • Rachel

        I feel silly having asked as I stare at the fruit mixture; now it’s sat overnight, it has indeed soaked up almost all of the juice and tea! Thank you, nonetheless, for the fantastically quick reply! I’m about to bung it in the oven…! It was great question as sometimes the fruit doesn’t soak it all up, but you still just bung in all in, happy caking xox

  25. I really, really like simple, rustic cakes like this one. Very good for afternoon tea or coffee and sharing with family and friends and workers! This is just lovely.

    • rachel

      It is perfect for sharing and chatting. I am waiting for potluck to arrive and when It does (and I have finished my testing) I am going to dive in. So proud of Nancy and you xox

  26. Looks delicious. I’d like it with cheddar too. And nearly there–fabulous!

  27. Deborah

    Hi Rachel–I’ve been reading your blog for at least 2 yrs and it’s time I commented to tell you how much I love reading it. I’ve printed lots of your recipes and arranged them by season in appropriately colored folders (yellow for summer, etc.) and who knows, maybe I’ll get around to, you know, COOKING something one day! haha Looking forward to the book, and thank you for sharing so much of your (& Luca’s!) wonderful living with me/us.

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  29. Graham Jepson.

    “Serve alone or with sharp cheese such as cheddar.” – is this not more Yorkshire Dales than Italy?

    • rachel

      G – rather more Dorset than Yorkshire as I was in Dorset when I wrote this (staying with my parents) and the cheese was local Rx

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