When I was little, our extended family had a visiting day once a month, where everyone got together on a specific date and had coffee and dessert. It was the host/housewife’s turn to show off her baking skills and so, she would make a few desserts over a span of a day or two in preparation for the occasion and serve them in beautiful dishes from her collection of fine china.
Being a child, I never turned down dessert and actually behaved during the visit, per my mother’s request, just so I could earn my fair share of the goodies. I didn’t know it then, but I totally appreciated cakes with dried fruits and when we moved to the United States, those recipes and the tradition all disappeared.
Fast forward to a hundred years later (being today) I was actually, extremely overjoyed when I came across here, a recipe similar to or perhaps even the same as the one my mother and aunts used to follow for the best dried fruit cake ever.
Apricot, Almond and Lemon Cake
One 9-inch (23cm) loaf pan
You can swap out another nut or dried fruit for the ones recommended. Susan recommends if using apricots, find those that are unsulphured if possible. For those who like things a little spicy, add a dusting of cayenne or red pepper powder (about 1/2 teaspoon) into the batter.
1 1/2 cups (200g) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 rounded teaspoon sea salt
1 rounded teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 large eggs, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (110g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
7 ounces (210g) dried apricots, coarsely chopped
6 ounces (180g) Gruyère, Comté, or Emmental cheese, finely grated (2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
grated zest of one lemon
1/3 cup (60g) almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Butter a loaf pan, line it with parchment paper, then butter the parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl. Stir in the black pepper. (If you’re adding chile powder, add that here as well.)
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand, whisk the eggs until frothy (about a minute) then stir in the dry ingredients. Mix in the melted butter until thoroughly blended, then fold in the apricots, cheese, fennel seeds, lemon zest, and almonds.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
5. Remove the cake from the oven and let it sit for about five minutes, then tip it out onto a cooling rack. Wait a few more minutes, then remove the parchment paper and let cool completely before serving.
Serving: To serve, cut the bread into slices with a sharp serrated bread knife, then cut the bread diagonally into triangles. Serve with cocktails or wines for an apéritif.
Storage: The cake will keep well-wrapped for up to three days at room temperature. Do not refrigerate the cake or it will get dry. The cake can be frozen for at least one month.