Dec 07

Fabulous fruit cake

Rex’s mum Zoe with the cake. Rex pours champagne and pretends he doesn’t really want to shake the bottle and spray us all with it like a Grand Prix winner.

It dawned somewhat belatedly that a grand cake would be essential for the bash celebrating a century of Roadleys on the farm at Batley. Strangely, this occurred to the farmer’s mother at about the same time – indecently early one morning when random to-do thoughts ahead of a big party hit overdrive.

“I’ll make it if you like,” I said, while thinking that, as giant fruit cakes for special events were more her domain, Zoe would be sure to say she’d make it. She even has about a dozen teatowels she keeps crisp and smart for such occasions.

Instead she said, “You’ll need my 10-inch tin.”

Ah well, she’d have to ice and decorate it as those skills are several stratospheres outside my domain, and at least I had a recipe. One Christmas my sister-in-law gave us such a delicious cake I’ve made it ever since. It’s called ‘Raewyn’s Christmas Cake’, because I name recipes after the person who’s given them to me, however TV3 news presenter Hilary Barry contributed it to Woman’s Day some years back.

The cake involves three simple steps, is bomb proof, and requires none of that tedious creaming butter and sugar business. But best of all, it provides an excuse (if you need one, and I do) to open a can of condensed milk, lick the lid and even dip into the milk itself – the cake doesn’t mind being short changed.

After contemplating the expansive tin, I made a double recipe, preparing a small tin for any left over mixture. There was none. If you’ve haven’t yet made your Christmas cake (and according to Christmas Traditions 101 you should have), you’ll probably like this one.

Raewyn’s Condensed Milk Christmas Cake

225g butter (melted)                        1 c hot water

1 Tb white wine vinegar                   2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice                              1 kg dried fruit

1 can condensed milk                      1 tsp baking soda

¼ cup sherry (or brandy or whisky… or even water)

1 tsp vanilla essence                        2 ¼ c self-raising flour

Put the butter, hot water, vinegar, cinnamon, spice and dried fruit in a saucepan. Bring to boil while stirring. Add condensed milk and baking soda. Cool to room temperature.

Add the remaining ingredients. Bake in a 20cm tin at 140 deg C fan bake for two to 2.5 hours. Cool in the tin. Douse with sherry, brandy or whisky.

Note: The mixture fizzes up in a thrilling fashion when you add the condensed milk and baking soda, so use a big saucepan.


Zoe, with the help of my other sister-in-law, cleverly iced and decorated the cake with a colourful Roadley crest.

Meanwhile, the farmer decided the event was worthy of a magnum French Champagne, except he didn’t want us to drink it. He wanted to achieve his long-held dream of shaking the bottle and spraying the crowd.

“You need to have won the America’s Cup or Formula I for that,” I said. “Or the Tour de France. If you take enough drugs you might have a chance.”

We drank the Moet & Chandon – of course – while a friend helping at the party ferried a platter of cakes to guests. She later told me many people had commented favourably about its taste (I’d jazzed it up with crystallised ginger and cherries) and moist texture.

“Who made it?” they’d all asked.

“Zoe,” she’d replied.

Sometimes justice comes in the most unexpected ways.

About the author

Rae Roadley

Rae is a journalist, freelance writer and writing tutor. Soon after returning to her hometown to work for Northland's daily newspaper, she met beef and sheep farmer Rex Roadley. He lived in a historic home at Batley on the Kaipara Harbour and after moving there, Rae reported on farming then wrote a newspaper column, The Country Side. Her wryly amusing tales of country life earned many followers and led her to learn more about the local people, past and present. She tells the story of her new life in 'Love at the End of the Road: Finding my heart in the country'.


Skip to comment form

  1. Coral Todd

    Hello Rae, I have just recently finished reading your book Love at the End of the Road and just loved it – couldn’t put it down it made me laugh and cry as well as intrigue me as to the research that you must have done to achieve such an informative book – such great reading. I knew my daughter Donna would love to read it, so while up here on holiday at their beach place at Ruakaka (incidently she too started her career as a Journalist with the N Z Herald) I lent her the book, she too was just over the moon with the reading of it – and just loved it, she just loves your style of writing. The book was returned to me this morning with “Zoe’s Chocolate Cake ” which she had made at first light this morning (Donna has always been an early riser) having the recipes in the book is another wonderful bonus
    So there you go Rae two happy customers and I know Donna will be telling everyone she knows about your book – as an avid reader she always has a book or two on hand.
    I came to Batley House with the 60’s Up Group last month – and because I am Neil’s wife (he is our branch President) – we were lucky to get the book first – all the rest are waiting in line- Thankyou for a great day and visit just loved being made so welcome and share your home. Now, having read your book it just brings more incite into Batley house and it’s history. When playing bowls at Maungatoroto against Res, Albie Paton, Ron McCullum, Trevor (and his magnificent pickles, chutneys, fresh vegies} etc, I had no idea they all had such history amongst them. When the winter bowls start up again I shall be amongst them once again -( I am in my last year as a Jnr, and often wish I had started in my younger years
    Thanks again
    Cheers – Coral Todd

    1. Rae Roadley

      Hi Coral,
      Thrilled, thrilled, thrilled that you and Donna enjoyed the book – and the cake. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know. How I would love to be an early riser like Donna! We loved having you here – and it turned out to be a good ‘test’ for early May when we’ll be having four bus trips in four consecutive days (gasp!) – so the cake recipe will be getting a good work out. Best of luck with your bowls – and again, thank you.

  2. Jenn j McLeod

    I love, love LOVE that your posts make me smile, and giggle. I love your writing, Rae. And if I don’t think to say it before the day, have a wonderful Christmas celebration in NZ. Wo knows, maybe ill make it over your way for a book signing. Wouldn’t that be wonderful (but only if you guys stop having such terrible natural disasters. Gosh, you sure have had your share. Take care.

    1. Rae Roadley

      Big thanks for your kind – and timely – words – just the boost I need. Be fabulous if you make NZ for a book signing (Simon & Schuster is releasing Jenn’s books Mother’s Day 2013 & 2014) – and yes, horrible twister yesterday. Multiple merries for your Christmas as well.

      1. Jenn J McLeod

        Update. Release date for House for all Seasons now 1 March. Woo bloody hoo!

        1. Rae Roadley

          Woo hoo indeed! Wads of luck. Also you hit the spot on my hopes and intentions for my blog – and newspaper columns – to make people smile and brighten their day – good to know I hit the spot.

  3. Kiwiskan

    The cake sounds great – and your site is allowing me to comment, though not as a wordpress member

    1. Rae Roadley

      Yep, cake is good. And re commenting – perhaps that’s because anyone can comment? Anyway, a mystery solved is a good thing. And thanks for following!

Comments have been disabled.