July 27th, 2021


This last month has been a mixture of emotions. We said goodbye to our dear Nana Ngaire a few weeks ago, with our close family gathered together for her last days (some had travelled from overseas and only just made it out of quarantine in time). We grieved her passing together, while also celebrating her incredible life and the connection she brought to our extended family. You can read a special obituary from the Nelson Mail here. 

I wrote a little more about Nana and our close relationship here. I have shared before that she taught me how to cook at a young age, which had a huge influence on my life and subsequent career path. This was a tumultuous time in my family life when my parents were separating and our cooking sessions together bought a much-needed sense of stability. Just one example of how much she cared and always wanted the best for us.

I am sharing this recipe today because of course, Nana loved fruit cake. And also it just feels like the right time of year to eat a dense cake like this. This cake is from my 2020 Recipe Calendar and after several requests for the recipe recently (the calendar sold out a few years ago), it seemed the perfect time to share it here. Happy baking, and keep warm and dry!

Mid-Winter Fruit Cake

This fruit cake is similar to a Christmas cake, however, with winter being the time of year we crave heavier foods and warming spices I much prefer making this in the cooler months. The dense cake keeps well in a cake tin for many weeks and makes the perfect winter afternoon pick me up with a cup of tea. The technique for this fruit cake involves boiling the dried fruit rather than soaking which results in a very moist and dense cake. 
Servings 24 slices
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes


  • 2 oranges, juice and zest
  • 600 g dried fruit - figs, prunes, raisins, currants, apricots – larger fruit roughly chopped
  • about 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 100 g butter
  • 1/2 cup (75g) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (220g) plain white flour*
  • ½ cup (75g) wholemeal flour*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup blanched almonds
  • Optional addition: 100g dark 70% chocolate, roughly chopped
  • *gluten-free use 2 cups gluten-free flour mix.


  • Remove the zest from the oranges and place in a large saucepan. Juice the oranges and measure the amount of juice in a measuring jug topping up with boiling water to make a total of 1 ½ cups. Add to the pan along with the dried fruit, butter and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes until the fruit softens. Set aside to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C. Generously grease and line a 22cm baking tin with baking paper.
  • Add the eggs to the saucepan one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the flours, baking powder, spice and salt and fold into the mixture along with the blanched almonds and chopped chocolate if using.
  • Scoop into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 1 ¼ hours minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. If the top begins to brown cover with a piece of baking paper to prevent burning.
  • Cool the cake in the tin. Once cool, place into a cake tin lined with baking paper and cut small slices to enjoy with a hot cuppa on these cold winter days. Store in a cool pantry and consume within 3 weeks.

*Recipe from my Homegrown Kitchen 2020 Recipe Calendar.

Join the Conversation

  1. Joan Neild says:

    Dear Nicola,
    Is this recipe in your recipe book. As well as the calendar?
    li think I sent out all the calendars I got from you so don’t have one.
    It looks great.I am wondering if you would mind me sharing this in my Mothers’union next newsletter. It goes around NZ and Polynesia.? Let me know. It is nice to include recipes from time to time. The ladies love them..

    Kind regards.
    Joan Neild.

    1. Hi Joan, this recipe is only in the 2020 calendar and now on my website 🙂
      That would be fine, if you can please credit the recipe as follows (or something similar):
      Recipe by Nicola Galloway – reproduced with permission. Find more recipes at https://www.homegrown-kitchen.co.nz

    2. Looks yum!!
      I am going to try making it.
      Thank you!

      1. Thanks, happy caking! 🙂

  2. Charmian Jolly says:

    Dear Nicola
    I made the meatballs but I needed to add more chopped tomatoes- it was too dry for the children.
    Meatballs very tasty. Though.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. You don’t want to drown the meatballs too much as they can go soggy if they are too deep in the sauce surrounding them – it is a fine balance. Of-course it will also depend on the depth of your pan compared to the one I was using too 😉

  3. Lynda Megson says:

    So sorry for your loss of a most wonderful Nana. Every child needs a Nana such as Ngaire. It’s interesting to see where your flair for healthy food came from. She will be forever in your heart..

    Best wishes,
    Lynda M

    1. Thanks Lynda, she was a special person in my life. Even though she couldn’t cook so much in her later years she still loved to chat food and share a meal with the family.
      Many thanks

  4. Hi Nicola, can the butter be substitute with oil to make it dairy free?
    I love your recipe book! I use it all the time.

    1. Hi Prisca, I haven’t tried with oil so can’t be 100% sure. But as it is a dense cake I don’t think there would be too much difference other than the taste may be affected depending on the oil used.

  5. Hi Nicola
    Thank you for sharing the Mid-Winter Fruit Cake recipe. I replaced the flour with a Gluten Free flour mix. I also baked it for an extra 15 minutes. The flavour is really nice, but the cake is ever so soggy inside. Should I have baked it longer? What would be your tips on baking with a GF flour mix please?
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Ingrid, for a heavy dense crumb cake like this you may need to cook it longer if using gluten-free flour. GF flour doesn’t cook and set as wheat flour does. For example, when I am baking gluten-free bread, I find that I need to cook it 20-30 minutes longer than wheat/rye bread. A trick you can do now that it is cooked is to lightly fry slices of fruit cake in butter or ghee. This will get rid of the soggy-ness and adds a little caramelising too 🙂

      1. Hi Nicola
        Thank you for all those tips! And what a brilliant idea to fry slices of the fruit cake. A tat bit soggy or not, the flavour of this cake is fabulous and there are only two slices left now :)) . Tor tomorrow’s morning tea I’ll be lightly frying them.
        Go well & stay safe.
        All my best

  6. Shelley Sugrue says:

    Hello Nicola,
    The cake recipe looks delicious. Will it work okay with dates added to the dried fruit mixture?

    1. Hi Shelley, you could use some dried dates along with the other dried fruit. Dates are quite sweet so it could affect the sweetness of the cake so make sure to use some tarter prunes maybe to balance.

  7. It looks delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  8. I have been baking this cake as my go to fruit cake all year round. It’s fabulous and everyone loves it. A real testament to your Nana. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    1. Hi Carmen, that is wonderful to hear. It is a special cake. Thanks for the reminder to make another one myself!

  9. Hello. Wondering if this might work with white spelt flour, and if the wholemeal portion could be substituted with ground almonds?

    1. Hi Erica, you can definately use white spelt flour (I often use it as a straight swap for wheat flour). For the ground almonds, it will change the texture of the cake a little, but I think it would be fine. Use the same weight as wholemeal flour rather than volume.
      Enjoy, Nicola

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