The signature this week was a fruity one, with the bakers challenged to make tasty fruit cakes. Family recipes, historical cakes and local bakes filled the tent, but one of the most popular ideas was the good old Christmas cake. But when did fruitcake become a popular Christmas pud?
Christmas cake actually started life as plum porridge, designed to line people’s stomachs after a day of religious fasting. Soon, other fruits and a dash of honey joined the plums and became the good old Christmas pudding.
Around the 16th century, people began to use richer ingredients so the oats were removed and flour and eggs were added. The pudding started to resemble the kind of fruitcake we’d recognise today. Spices that had started to be brought over from the east were incorporated into the cake to symbolise the three wise men. Richer families could also afford to wrap their cakes in marzipan, making them look much like the Christmas cake we eat today.
These days, most Christmas cakes are made in advance, with festive bakers ‘feeding’ their cake with brandy, sherry or whisky until the big day. Or, like Prue and Amelia, you can quicken the process up by cooking your fruit on the hob
You can try some of the bakers’ fruitcake recipes for yourself from the GBBO recipe page.