A “Stout-Hearted Cake” is a fruit-cake made and eaten on Candlemas Day (2nd February). A day when candles are blessed in the Churches and the Church of England celebrates the Presentation of Christ in the Temple as one of its Principal Feasts. The name of the cake is taken from the main preserving ingredient – it is made with a ‘stout’, or dark ale, which is poured into the heart of the cake after it is baked – this is an old way of preserving cakes, like pouring whisky or brandy into Christmas Cakes. Before that puts you off, it should be stated that this cake tastes really great and is wonderfully moreish … full of mature dark treacle and moist fruit flavours.
These heavier, fruitier type of cakes, popular in the 1800s, were welcome and comforting in the colder months such as February, and could be stored in the larder for many weeks, preserved by the ale – and cakes made with ale, like this one, and the Porter Cake, are best left to mature before eating.
This recipe comes from ‘Lincoln Cathedral Cookery Book’, published in aid of the Cathedral Fabric Fund in 1980. The recipe was sent in by Bridget Nankivell, Queens College, Birmingham and she says, “This cake will keep for years (!) and must be kept for at least one week before eating”.
A Stout Hearted Cake Recipe
- 225g wholemeal (wholewheat) flour
- 100g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 75g natural brown sugar (Demerara)
- 300 ml Stout (like Guinness)
- 1 tbsp golden syrup (corn syrup)
- 1 tbsp black treacle (molasses)
- 75g butter
- 2 eggs
- 100g chopped dates
- 175g mixed dried fruit
Preheat the oven to 150C
Grease a medium sized cake tin with a little butter and line it with baking parchment. It is recommended to use a cake tin with a removable base to help get the cake out of the tin after baking.
In a large mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together then beat in the eggs – and mix thoroughly. Add the golden syrup (corn syrup), black treacle (molasses), and half the Stout (Guinness – 150ml) – stir gently.
Add in the chopped dried fruit, flour (plain and wholemeal) sea salt and baking powder. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly together, adding in more Stout (Guinness) if necessary to make a pourable mixture.
Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven at 150C for about 2 hours. It is cooked when an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Once baked remove the cake tin from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then turn the cake out onto a wire rack. After 30 minutes, while the cake is still warm, place a little newspaper under the cooling rack and carefully pour over the rest of the Stout (Guinness – 150ml) so that the cake soaks it up.
When fully cold wrap the cake in greaseproof paper or baking parchment and store in an air-tight tin for a minimum of one week before cutting into and serving.