I always thought making a Fruit Cake cannot be any easier till I had to make at least one a day for work. Let me explain the complications..
First, the cake base. All right. You can always use a Sponge. But I really hate using Sponges due to the nature that they dry out too fast and resemble that of the Scour pad in your dishwashing sink. That is absolutely a no-no for me (unless the cake is consumed right away). Otherwise, I stick to a nice pound cake recipe that I love so much. It's almost idiot-proof to remember the recipe and it works fantastic for any other flavours that you wish to add to the cake! So I had to make a pound cake using the simplest Muffin method (not too much difference if you vary the methods) and add a hint of lemon or lime to add on to the overall cake flavour. It all sounds so simple now but it took me quite a few days to realise how to expedite the process!
Second, the whipping cream. Well, stick to Buttercream if you like but I really think Fresh Fruit cake should have the lightest possible frosting on top. So Whipped Cream is the best option. But my headache had just begun when I opted for frosting. Like most beginners, I couldn't get the Whipping Cream whipped!!!! Let me explain, according to Mr "Perfect Chemist-Chef" Heston Blumenthal, the Whipping Cream is best whipped in a chilled environment (or something like that). In School, we were taught to whip cream at 4 degrees Celsius (don't ask me why, there's a whole science behind this!). That means all the apparatus for whipping cream, the whisk attachment for the mixer, the mixing bowl and of course the packet of Whipping Cream! Ur Resident Chef here did not always seem to have the best memory and forgot to chill that packet of Whipping Cream and I could stand there with that hand-held mixer till eternity... the Cream refused to be whipped!!!! Outrageous isn't it?
Oh and you thought after whipping the cream, my nightmare was over? Too early, I forgot that Whipped Cream doesn't stay whipped forever! When it was time to coat the cake, the Cream decided to return to its sloshy state. ("Oh yeah. Go ahead and take a pi** you stupid Cream!" I cursed in Gordon Ramsey-style. Sorry Gordon!) Lucky thing, there's always Google to save my day. Back to basics for me. I had to learn how to whip cream! This site saved my life and fixed most of the problems I had with Whipping Cream. Indeed, one can always stabilize Whipped Cream with the addition of Gelatine (refer to site for instructions) but I prefer the simpler way that involves such the addition of Icing Sugar. There are other recipes that advise you to add cornflour into the cream (helps to thicken and set the cream a little). Since I always insists on using recipes that do not alter the actual flavour of the food too much (except to enhance it), I use Icing Sugar (which includes a small percentage of Cornflour to prevent it from clumping).
To complete the job, I have to top the whole cake with fresh fruits. I love Strawberries but it can be quite a pain as the cake has to be on display till sold. Strawberries bleed.. BIG TIME. So the lovely juices will be trickling down the sides of my otherwise perfectly WHITE whipped cream. Eeks!!! One piece of advice, choose less ripe berries. Those that are a little soft and squishy tend to bleed the hell all over the cake! So I avoided the use of Strawberries if I knew that the cake was meant for a day after production. I placed the berries on the next day! Cake is too flat? No worries, I figured out the way to salvage the situation. I chose fruits that add bulk in between the layers. I love canned peaches. They are much bigger which means less time required to fill each layer. Strawberries are nice for decoration unless you are feeling real generous, you do not use them to fill the 2 layers of your cake with them! I reserved the berries for side decoration or top. And I have to add, I hate Bananas! Never use them for decoration. It's suicidal. The look of brown banana slices on the cake can really drive away customers! Ask me, I got complaints! :P
That concludes my rant for the making of a Fresh Fruit Cake. I got compliments for the cake in the end. The lightness of the cake and the fruits seemed to wow those that I fed.
I'm feeling ready for another challenge!