There’s a reason why it’s called Termite Cake, which I will come to at the end of the post, when all the cooking is done and you’re kicking back with a cuppa and the leftover Dairy Milk.
This is a family recipe passed down from my Grandmother, with various modifications for taste. It’s not too difficult, I’m not the worlds greatest baker and I managed to rustle up a pretty tasty version with only minimal swearing.
FOREST FRUIT CAKE aka TERMITE CAKE.
Please note – metric and imperial measurements are not equivalent, use one or the other.
You will need :
18cm (7in) deep round cake tin, greased and lined
175gm (6oz) unsalted butter
175gm (6oz) caster sugar
175gm (6oz) sifted plain flour
3 medium eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
50gm (2oz) ground almonds
One small orange
75gm (3oz) Dairy Milk chocolate (or local equivalent – just as long as it’s chunky)
75gm (3oz) Glace cherries
50gm (2oz) Glace pineapple
50gm (2oz) Chopped mixed peel
75gm (3oz) sultanas
75gm (3oz) dried cranberries
(You can vary the amounts of fruit/chocolate to taste)
400gm (14oz) Chocolate butter icing (I’ll level with you, I hate making icing, so I cheated and bought a tub of Betty Crocker. But if you want to make your own icing be my guest)
6 large Cadbury’s flakes
Before you start, rinse all the glace syrup from the fruit and make sure it’s dry. You can roll it in some flour if you wish. If the fruit isn’t dry, it will sink to the bottom of the cake and you’ll end up with a soggy bottom, something nobody wants.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Gradually beat in the eggs, then fold in the sifted flour and baking powder, along with the ground almonds.
Finely grate the orange rind, and add it to the cake mixture. Squeeze out the orange juice and put it to one side.
Cut each square of chocolate into four. Sample it to make sure it still tastes ok.
Roughly chop the cherries and pineapple. Mix all the fruit and chocolate into the mixture, with enough orange juice to make a fairly stiff dropping consistency. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface, slightly hollowing out the centre. Place the tin on a baking tray and bake the cake in a moderate oven (180c, 350f, gas mark 4) for 1 to 1 and a half hours.
Stick a knife into the cake to make sure it’s cooked through. If the outside is cooked but the inside is still gooey, cover the tin with silver foil to prevent it from burning. When it’s cooked, allow the cake to cool for a while before turning out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely before applying decoration.
If the top of your cake is lumpy slice it flat with a sharp knife. Eat the sliced-off bits of cake (because you deserve them). It doesn’t matter if the top of the cake is a bit rough, that adds to the rural charm, but blow off any loose crumbs before you apply the icing.
Put the cake on a flat plate or board – it’s easiest to do this before you start decorating it. Cover the cake liberally with the chocolate butter icing, and mark the top into rings. It says to use a fork here, but I got a really nice tree ring effect using a serrated bread knife. Cut the Cadbury’s Flakes into thinner pieces, keeping them as long as possible. Carefully press upright pieces of Flake into the side of the cake, mixing the larger and smaller pieces to resemble the bark of a tree – this is surprisingly realistic. Dust with sifted icing sugar for snow and place any Christmas decorations on top.
The whole cake can be wrapped in foil and frozen for up to a month, but it keeps reasonably well (around a week) in an airtight tin.
What you should have is a cake that looks like the snow-dusted trunk of a tree. What we had was Termite cake. This was entirely down to my younger sister, who found the cake, hidden away in a tin high up on a shelf in my granny’s house. When my granny fetched it down on Christmas day, the bark had been picked away by little fingers, and those same little fingers had burrowed holes in the side of the cake and dug out the lumps of chocolate and the cherries.
My grandmother, looking at it ruefully, declared that it looked like termites had been at her Christmas cake. And it’s been Termite Cake ever since.