Making a fruit cake less crumbly


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We have a favourite fruit cake recipe, taken a few years ago from a newspaper. It has only one fault in that is is very crumbly and difficult to eat without making a mess.
Which ingredient do I need to increase the proportion of in order to rectify this? Is it the fat (margarine), the eggs, the sugar or the flour?
 
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We have a favourite fruit cake recipe, taken a few years ago from a newspaper. It has only one fault in that is is very crumbly and difficult to eat without making a mess.
Which ingredient do I need to increase the proportion of in order to rectify this? Is it the fat (margarine), the eggs, the sugar or the flour?

post the full recipe with mixing instructions
 
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Recipe used here:

Nana's Christmas Loaves



450 gram self raising flour

340 gram currants

340 gram sultanas

340 gram raisins

115 gram glace cherries

115 gram ground almonds

1 teaspoon mixed spice

5 eggs + 2 tablespoons milk

340 gram margarine

340 gram brown sugar

1 tablespoon treacle

3 tablespoons brandy



Mix the dry ingredients (flour, dried fruit, ground almonds and mixed spice) in a large bowl. In a second bowl whisk the eggs and milk. Taking a third large bowl cream the margarine with the sugar.

Now gradually combine all the ingredients by alternately adding a drop of the egg-milk mix and small quantities of the dry mix to the creamed margarine and sugar. Once well combined stir the treacle into the cake mixture, followed by the brandy.



Line two or three greased loaf tins with baking parchment. (recipe says 2 x 2lb tins but we had smaller ones and used three) . Divide the mixture between the tins and bake in oven at 150C . The recipe says three to three and a half hours but in the smaller tin it was about two hours. Test with a piece of spaghetti and when clean remove from oven. Leave to cool, remove from tins and wrap in foil to keep.

I am in the UK where we measure by weight rather than cups. Some volume ingredients are measured in teaspoons and tablespoons. I understand that the US and UK tablespoons and teaspoons are equivalent.
 
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Recipe used here:

Nana's Christmas Loaves



450 gram self raising flour

340 gram currants

340 gram sultanas

340 gram raisins

115 gram glace cherries

115 gram ground almonds

1 teaspoon mixed spice

5 eggs + 2 tablespoons milk

340 gram margarine

340 gram brown sugar

1 tablespoon treacle

3 tablespoons brandy



Mix the dry ingredients (flour, dried fruit, ground almonds and mixed spice) in a large bowl. In a second bowl whisk the eggs and milk. Taking a third large bowl cream the margarine with the sugar.

Now gradually combine all the ingredients by alternately adding a drop of the egg-milk mix and small quantities of the dry mix to the creamed margarine and sugar. Once well combined stir the treacle into the cake mixture, followed by the brandy.



Line two or three greased loaf tins with baking parchment. (recipe says 2 x 2lb tins but we had smaller ones and used three) . Divide the mixture between the tins and bake in oven at 150C . The recipe says three to three and a half hours but in the smaller tin it was about two hours. Test with a piece of spaghetti and when clean remove from oven. Leave to cool, remove from tins and wrap in foil to keep.

I am in the UK where we measure by weight rather than cups. Some volume ingredients are measured in teaspoons and tablespoons. I understand that the US and UK tablespoons and teaspoons are equivalent.


I use baker’s percentages, so bake in metric weight.



I think the difference between American fruitcake and British is the ratios of sugar, eggs, and butter to flour ratios.



The ratios of ingredients in the recipe you are using a bit low.



Sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it pulls moisture from the environment, so it adds moisture to baked goods. When the sugar to flour is too low, the cake will be crumbly.



Butter and eggs are source of fat and both are a bit on the low side in the recipe you are using.



The mixing instructions are a bit strange; adding a “drop” of egg at a time will will over mix the margarine and sugar.



Creaming is mechanical leavening. Time and temperature of ingredients is important to ensure the plasticity of the butter or margarine remains intact. If you overbeat the fat, it will overheat and lose its plasticity. Depending on the type of margarine, it’s melting point may be lower or higher than butter.



How eggs are beat into a batter is important since this is the emulsification process. Eggs should be beaten in one at a time.



Scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl. And beat the egg in completely, but don’t add the egg a “drop” at a time. Just mix the milk in after the eggs.





Also you are probably over-baking your loaves since you’re dividing the batter into three rather than two tins. The volume in each tin is less, so you have to adjust the time and temperature accordingly.



Going back to the ratios...baker’s percentages are the ratios of ingredients to flour. All ingredients are weighed against the flour. Flour is always 100%; to calculate the ratio of an ingredient divide its weight into the weight of the flour.



Example, in this recipe the flour is 450 g and margarine is 340 g.



450 ÷ 340 = .75



So the margarine is 75%.





===========







Everyone’s fruitcake is slightly different. But these are the ratios for an average American fruitcake:



Flour 100%

Sultans & figs 150%

Currants & raisins 75%

Whiskey for soaking fruit 75%

Butter 95%

Sugar 95%

Egg 80%*





Compare to the recipe you are using:



Flour 100%

Sultans, currants, raisins 75%

Whiskey for soaking fruit 0%

Margarine 75%

Sugar 55%

Egg 62%*







The recipe you are using does not soak the fruit in whiskey overnight to soften the fruit.



It adds brandy to the batter. Which is a waste since heat destroys alcohol.



To properly infuse a fruitcake with brandy, brush with brandy after the cake is baked. Then store in air tight tins and repeat once a week for 2 - 3 weeks.









==================



*UK large eggs in shell weigh average 63g; the shell should weigh about 7g, so yield from a large will be on average approx +/-56g.



American and Canadian large eggs are only about 58g, so yield about +/- 50g.
 
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This article will explain creaming butter and sugar.

Although it focuses on cookies it applies to cakes as well.

 
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Many thanks indeed for that detailed response. I'll copy and paste it into a document to keep and study before baking this or similar, recipes again. I'll also look at the creaming advice too.
 
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