Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Fruitcake for Mma Ramotswe: ReadCookEat challenge

"Fruitcake came to her mind unbidden - a large fruitcake rich in sultanas and candied peel: the sort of cake that would torment and tantalise those on a diet. But Mma Ramotswe was nether dieting nor planning to do so, and she welcomed the vision wholeheartedly. She had not had fruitcake for a long time, and the idea of a generous slice - or possibly even two slices - seemed very attractive... There were two ladies in Botswana who made good fruitcake, and Mma Potokwani was one of them" (Alexander McCall Smith, The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon)

Mma Ramotswe

I love Mma Ramotswe, the founder of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, and admire this traditionally-built lady for being wise, kind and intelligent. I have read all the books in the series (except the very last one). I also enjoy numerous references to food and cooking in the books, and of course, Mma Potokwani's fruitcake features regularly.
A few years ago the flavours of the series were recreated in a cook book called Mma Ramotswe's Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built. I have borrowed this book in the library in the past and enjoyed reading it.
My recipe for fruitcake has been inspired by the recipe from this book called Persuasive Fruit Cake which also appears on The Redbush tea company's site.

Fruitcake for Mma Ramotswe
4 medium eggs
200g caster sugar
zest & juice of 1 orange
220g mixed dried fruit (dates, raisins & lemon peel)
2tbsp brandy
100g ground almonds
110g cornflour
3tsp baking powder
300g plain flour
200g butter, melted
1 teabag of Rooibos (I used Dragonfly Earl Grey Rooibos)
1tsp vanilla bean extract
1tsp essence of orange blossom water
icing sugar + 3tsp of orange blossom water for the icing + more icing sugar

Start by soaking the dried fruit in brandy and orange juice. Leave it for about 30 minutes. Beat the eggs with the caster sugar, add the zest of one orange, ground almonds, cornflour, flour, the contents of one rooibos teabag (discard the bag), vanilla and orange blossom water, mix well.
Add the fruit with all the juices and melted butter, and mix again.
Butter the cake tin (or use the cake release spray) and spoon the cake batter in (it will be quite thick), then place the tin in the oven preheated to 180C. Bake for an hour.
Once baked, decorate with simple icing made of the orange blossom water and icing sugar.
And sprinkle more icing sugar on top.
If you like your fruitcake sticky rather than crumbly, add more dried fruit.

"There are times when it is better to concentrate on the cake in one's mouth than contribute to a debate".

Have you read a book (and I don't mean a cook book) and felt inspired to recreate the dish or recipe mentioned in it? Every time I read an Inspector Montalbano book (and I have read all of them), I feel like running to the kitchen and starting cooking those fabulous Sicilian dishes like pasta with sardines or caponata. Salvo's house keeper Adelina cooks the most scrummy dishes for him, and it's a joy to read the descriptions of the local food through the series.

You don't have to "travel" far, just pick any Jane Austen's novel and explore what her characters had for dinner. Aren't you tempted to reconstruct Mrs Bennet's dinner for Bingley or try the rout cakes mentioned in Emma or negus served at the balls in Mansfield Park?

Chris from Cooking Around the World has kindly agreed to run a joint reading-cooking challenge with me. The idea is to choose a fiction book, either a world classic or modern fiction, and pick up a dish mentioned or described in that book and then recreate it in a recipe. Please say a few lines about your chosen book, and maybe even do a quote from the book.

As Chris is the original author of the Cooking around the world linky, I am merely stating the rules for taking part in our joint linky.
Please add the badge to your post and link up back to Chris and me, and either use a link-up tool or add the url of your post as a comment. Alternatively, email either of us with the link to your post (my email is sasha1703 at yahoo dot com).
The challenge will start on 1 April and will end on 30 April 2014.
I promise to Pin all blogs posts taking part in this challenge, as well as RT and Google+.

If you would like to discover which book inspired Chris, visit his blog.

Looking forward to everyone's creations!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Beverley for all your lovely comments!

  2. A wonderful recipe for our joined reading and cooking challenge. That already made me want some fruitcake.

    1. Thank you Chris! Curious as to who will do our first linky entry.

  3. Gorgeous cake. I will have to think about this one

  4. What a good idea! Cake looks lovely. I read a lot of crime fiction, so maybe I would end up making a lot of doughnuts! haha.

    1. And why not? If they feature in books, it's fair play. :)

  5. I'm so excited about this challenge! Love it! :D

    1. Really looking forward to your medieval recipe, Elizabeth!

  6. Fruitcake and fiction fab combination.

  7. This is such a wonderful challenge. Your recipe sounds amazing!

    1. Thank you Sarah! Hope you will join in!

    2. OK, I've made a dish from a work of fiction, well a variation because I couldn't get the exact ingredients quoted, and I've taken a picture, I'll try to get it written up in time.

    3. Yes please Sarah! Would love to see which book and recipe you have chosen!

  8. Hi!

    I found your post when searching for the Mma Potokwani fruit cake recipy and have translated it to Swedish here: http://sannasbokhylla.blogspot.se/2017/08/mma-potokwanes-fruktkaka.html

    But I didn't manage to make such a good-looking cake as yours, though :)

    Thanks a lot for the great blog!

    1. Thank you, Sanna! I think your cake looks even prettier.

  9. Some of the most interesting food dishes I've found have been in the 'Master and Commander' series by Patrick O'Brian. You wouldn't think that kind of book would mention these kinds of things but it does and often! Don't think I could re-create a 'boiled baby' (boiled pudding) or soused pig's face but it might be fun to try!

    1. I confess I haven't read any of Patrick O'Brien's books, but these dishes do sound intriguing. I had to google for a boiled baby recipe, and there is an old Guardian article with the recipe, if you want to recreate it. :)

  10. I love the books and I’ve been waiting to try this cake. Looking forward to it! For us Americans, do you mean corn flour like our cornstarch or whole grain finely ground corn flour?

    1. Hi Zanne, I'm not sure I know enough to give advice. Google says the cornflour is finer than cornstarch. It is very light.