It boggles my mind when people sneer at my love of leaf tea. Callously labelled as pretentious and pompous, the reality could not be further from the truth. Leaf tea is an artisanal product, with a vast kaleidoscope of flavours and fragrances. Each has its own subtleties and each is an individual. However like cake, leaf tea is a truly affordable luxury that can be enjoyed every day by everyone. Even the very best leaf tea costs merely a few pounds and can be picked up easily online or from one of the many incredible leaf tea shops around the country. So, why not dust off the old tea pot this weekend and indulge yourself in a cup of lost malawi or ceylon kenilworth. I promise you won't be disappointed.
In tribute to my adoration of tea I have created an easy fruit cake recipe to showcase one of my favourite leaf teas, Russian Smoked Caravan. Soaking the vine fruit in this beautiful tea and using the liquor to make a syrup adds a real richness to the finished cake, with a light smokiness and an subtle, almost burnt toffee flavour. Of course, if you have a favoured tea you can substitute with whatever you prefer. As always I encourage experimentation!
Prep time: 25 Mins (Plus overnight soaking time)
Baking time: 60 Mins
200ml Strong Tea
350g Dried Mixed Vine Fruit
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Mixed Spice
1tsp Baking Powder
190g Plain Flour
3tbsp Golden Syrup
We begin by soaking the fruit in the strong tea. Do this in a shallow container, ensuring the fruit is evenly covered with the dark tea. Cover and leave to soak, ideally overnight. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3, grease a 20cm deep loose bottomed baking tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the mixed spice. Sift in the baking powder and flour, then mix to a smooth even batter. Using a slotted spoon (As you want to retain some of the soaking liquor) add the soaked fruit to the mixture, then fold through until combined. Spoon into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 60-65 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the centre of the cake.
When you're happy the cake is baked remove from the oven. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack. For the syrup, add 3tbsp of golden syrup to the soaking liquor and heat through in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. Whilst it is warming pierce the top of the warm cake all over with a toothpick or metal skewer. Stir the syrup together, then brush all over the top. I find it easier to do this in two stages, brushing over half then leaving it for 5 minutes to soak in before brushing over the remaining syrup. Leave the cake to cool completely then slice and serve, with a cup of tea.