North Country Cake

A no-nonsense cake wade with very basic ingredients, this heavy, moist cake is saturated with stout or ale and left to mature for a week before serving.

1 tablespoon butter

1 lb. plus

1 tablespoon flour

½ teaspoon salt

8 oz. lard or vegetable fat, cut into walnut-sized pieces

12 oz. soft brown sugar

10 oz. sultanas or seedless raisins

8 oz. currants

4 oz. chopped mixed candied peel

1 teaspoon mixed spice or ground allspice

10 fl. oz. stout or brown ale

5 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to moderate 350 °F (Gas Mark 4, 180 C).

Grease a 9-inch cake tin with half the butter. Line the base and sides of the tin with greaseproof or waxed paper and grease the paper with the remaining butter. Sprinkle with the tabLespoon of flour, tipping and rotating the tin to coat the base and sides evenly. Knock out any excess flour and set aside.

Sift the remaining flour and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the lard or vegetable fat into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Stir in the sugar, sultanas or seedless raisins, currants, candied peel and mixed spice or ground allspice.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat 2 fluid ounces of the stout or ale, the eggs and soda together with a wire whisk or rotary beater until the mixture is very frothy.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and fruit mixture and pour in the egg mixture. Using a metal spoon, fold them into each other, mixing until they are thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin, smoothing out the top with a flat-bladed knife. Place the tin in the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Reduce the oven temperature to cool 300°F (Gas Mark 2, 150°C) and continue baking for a further 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the tin from the oven.

Turn the cake out on to a board and return it, upside-down, to the tin. Using a skewer, pierce the bottom of the cake all over. Pour the remaining stout or ale slowly over the cake. Set the cake aside to cool.

When the cake is completely cold, remove it from the tin and wrap it securely in aluminium foil.

Leave the cake for 1 week before serving.

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