I love the Great British Bake Off, it's one of my favourite shows. What's better than a TV program about cake? I watch it every year and it inspires some of the cakes I make for my cake club. I heard that there is a Twitter Bake Along and I thought it sounded like a lot of fun.
Set up by @bakingnana and @Rob_C_Allen, the #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong has become a huge phenomenon and created a fabulous community of online bakers.
The rules are simple.
For Week One we had the choice of a fruit cake for the signature bake, Angel Slices for the technical challenge or a dream childhood birthday cake in the show stopper.
I decided to start with something simple, the fruit cake. Well, really it's a recipe for a tea loaf that my friend Vicki made for a WI committee meeting. She told me that she does her own version of this recipe by Delia Smith.
I would definitely call it one of my signature bakes, I've made it a lot and gone on to adapt it to my own tastes.
Easy Tea Loaf Recipe
The basic quantities are always the same but I use different dried fruit and tea every time I make it.
This is the perfect way to use up the half opened bags of dried fruit and the fancy tea bags in the back of the cupboard.
I've used raisins, currants, prunes, dates, apricots and if you want to be more adventurous you can get more unusual dried fruit like cherries, strawberries, blueberries, mango or pineapple.
Don't like glace cherries? Leave them out. Can't get peel? Replace it with more dried fruit. Allergic to nuts? Skip them.
My last combination was apricots, strawberries, raisins and currants soaked in DreamTime Instant Tea from Whittard's, inspired by someone from my baking club. The tea is so sweet I didn't need any sugar. It was delicious and has inspired me to try some more unusual teas.
This time I went with dried apples, dates, raisins and glace cherries, soaked in Hazer Baba Turkish Apple Tea I got from Amazon.
1. Soak the dried fruit in the hot tea and sugar overnight. Cut up any large fruit like apricots into small pieces. Leave covered and somewhere cool.
2. The next day pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
3.Mix the rest of the ingredients with the fruit. Add just enough milk to make the mix drop off the spoon easily - it will depend on how much tea your fruit has soaked up as to how much you need but don't make it too wet.
4. Tip into a lined 1lb loaf tin. I use the baking liners you can get. Quick and easy to use and keeps the loaf fresh once it's baked.
5. Bake for around 25 - 35 minutes until the top is golden, it has a little sprung to it and a skewer comes out clean-ish. The fruit means it doesn't come out dry like a sponge cake, but it shouldn't be gooey either. The amount of moisture in the fruit can affect the cooking time, so just keep an eye on it.
The tea loaf is delicious hot or cold. Eat it as it is or toasted and served with butter. It keeps really well - at least a week if you don't eat it all before. I make double, bake two loaves and put one in the freezer because it's that good.
In my novel The Choice sugar is illegal and baking is a crime. A single slice of cake can land you in big trouble! Read more about the Shame Boxes here...
Would I go to the Shame Box for this tea loaf/fruit cake?
This version? Sadly not. The dates stayed large and fiborous, I assumed they would cook down into a sweet pulp. Lesson for another time: puree them first or leave them out.
Would I go to the Shame Box for this recipe in general... absolutely!
But seeing as it has no fat and only fruit sugar in, I'm not sure it would even mean a stay in The Shame Box, so it's a win-win!
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.