Recently my friend and fellow Great Taste judge Barry offered me some hens for the kitchen garden. He knew that I had been longing for some more poultry ever since we had moved to our farmhouse home, but the walled garden needed completely clearing before we built a new pen to house the birds.

The chickens are now safely installed and unbelievably they started laying straight away. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to have my own hens once more and I really hope that Barry is pleased his precious girls have settled into their new home.

It is a small gesture but I decided to bake a cake to say ‘thank you’. I knew that this cake which is moist, flavoursome and baked with a generous glug or two of Barry’s favourite tipple would make an ideal gift.

For an 8” cake tin you will need:

340g (12 oz) mixed vine fruits – washed well

25cl (1/2 pint) Local cider or your favourite medium sweet brand

170g (6oz) Butter – softened

170g (6oz) Light soft brown sugar

½ teaspoon mixed spice and a grating of nutmeg (approx ½ tsp)

2 large free range eggs – beaten together

285g (10oz) Self raising flour


Weigh fruit into a lidded saucepan, add cider. Place over high heat and bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20minutes. Or place pan on your AGA boiling plate with lid on. Quickly bring fruit mixture to boil, then transfer to AGA simmering oven overnight.

Set conventional oven to 160 C and slide shelf to middle run (lower run for fan assisted ovens).

2-oven AGA – slide grid shelf on to floor of roasting oven. Place your AGA cake baker inside to reach correct temperature or utilise a large heavy duty lidded saucepan and trivet that will easily hold cake tin. Failing that ensure your plain shelf is cold.

4-oven AGA – slide grid shelf to sit on floor of oven. (You may need to use your plain shelf towards end of cooking time).

Grease and line cake tin with baking parchment.

Allow fruit mixture to cool slightly, meanwhile cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add beaten eggs, in two stages, along with a tablespoon of flour. Fold to mix well.

Add spice to remaining flour and fold into mixture. Next add cooled fruit and mix until combined.

Spoon cake mixture into prepared tin and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes depending on your particular oven. If using a 2-oven AGA without a cake baker, remember to slide plain shelf onto runner above as soon as you put cake inside to bake. Adjust cooking time accordingly.

Cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into centre removes cleanly. Allow to cool in tin on a wire rack (your AGA toaster is ideal) and remove to serve when completely cold.

Cooks Tip – If you are short of time or using a conventional oven and cannot prepare fruits the day before, simply follow instructions to bring fruit to a steady boil and then simmer with lid removed for 15 minutes with lid removed. Allow to cool and then mix with the remaining ingredients.

This cake keeps really well stored in an airtight tin. It is also my standby recipe at Christmas when I have left it to the last minute to make our own cake!