Buttermilk Fruit Cake
This soft-textured easy cake started life as a standard from my mother's kitchen. It came into the house when I was in primary school and then evolved, as family recipes do. It's made with no eggs and very little leavening, and it is aromatic with allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Each mouthful is a satisfying blend of cake and dried fruit: dates, dark and golden raisins, and currants.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed honey dates or pitted Medjouls
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk, heated until lukewarm or 1 cup whole or reduced-fat milk with 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup packed currants
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a two-piece 10-inch tube pan (or a 9-by 5-inch bread pan) and dust lightly with flour. Place on a baking sheet.
Place 1/2 cup of the flour on your cutting board. Put the dates on the flour and coarsley chop (the flour prevents the dates from disintegrating or turning into a mush). Scrape the mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Place the remaining 1 cup flour in a large bowl, add the sugar, salt, spices, and baking soda, and stir to blend. Place the buttermilk in a bowl and stir in the melted butter, then pour the mixture into the dry ingredients. Add the flour and date mixture and the remaining fruit and stir to blend well. Immediately pour into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a wet spatula.
Place the pan and baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake for about 50 minutes, or until the cake is golden and pulling away a little from the side of the pan. A skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. Lift the tube out of the rim to remove the cake and place the cake on a rack to cool for 20 minutes or more before serving. Serve in thick slices.
Note: We always leave this cake on the tube, storing it that way for the day or so it takes to get eaten. You can also remove it from the tube and place it on a plate: Run a knife between the cake and the tube to separate them, then tip the cake onto a plate.
As prepared, each serving contains 340 calories, 12g total fat, 30mg cholesterol, 340mg sodium, 56g total carbohydrate and 4g protein.