Tuesday 24 March 2015

Jewel Box Cake

Jewel Box Australian Panforte Cake
Some time ago the theme of one of the Clandestine Cake Club meetings I was going to came up as 'The Queen's Birthday' because quite appropriately it was to be held on 21st April. I had a long think about what I was going to make and started trawling the web for suitable ideas. I found out that the Queen's favourite afternoon tea cake is a no-bake chocolate, fruit, nut and biscuit affair. However, this was more the choice for when her grandchildren came to visit. Other suggestions from Royal 'insiders' and 'trusted staff' were for a honey and cream cake or ginger and fruit cake. None of these suggestions really grabbed me so I took to my books for further inspiration. I was flicking through Fiona Cairns' Birthday Cake Book when I saw it – Jewel Box cake. What could be a more fitting cake for Her Majesty but one covered in sparking jewels albeit of the coloured glacé cherry version!

I've tried several recipes from the Birthday Cake Book and I've been very impressed with them. I will confess though that each time I have needed to adapt them to my own needs. Fiona Cairns is probably best known for making the wedding cake in 2011 for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. For many years her range of ready-made cakes have been sold through Waitrose. We're talking high-end stuff here. It's no surprise then that the ingredients she lists in her recipes are high quality. For example in this one she calls for Lexia raisins which are nowhere to be seen in my local supermarkets. Instead I went for sultanas. I also changed some of the nuts simply because they were what I had in the cupboard at the time.

As a note to the actual recipe the ingredients are listed under 'For the cake' and 'To decorate'. At the bottom of the 'For the cake' it lists '3 tbsp dark rum or brandy, or to taste, plus more to feed (optional). Since this was listed at the bottom of the main ingredients list I ended up chucking it into the main mixture. It was only after the cake had baked and I looked at the further instructions did I realise it was meant to have been poured over the top. For me I preferred the alcohol to be cooked as I don't like the taste of it but other people many want to adhere to Fiona's original instructions.

Two last points – the cake is described as an Australian Panforte. Being someone who loves a bit of research I tried to find out what its origins were. Unfortunately I drew a blank. It is certainly a take on the traditional Italian panforte but what makes it Australian is still a mystery to me. Lastly, if you are wondering where to purchase the coloured cherries you will need to look on market stalls specialising in dried fruit and nuts or health store concessions that can be found in some department store. The only dried cherries I have found in supermarkets in recent years are the red ones.

Equipment: 8in (20cm) square cake tin, greaseproof paper, large bowl, small saucepan, pastry brush.


1½ oz (45g) Whole Brazil nuts
5oz (135g) Walnuts
6oz (180g) Whole blanched almonds
3½ oz (100g) Self-raising flour
5oz (140g) Golden caster sugar
9oz (250g) Whole dried dates
2oz (55g) Sultanas
3½ oz (100g) Dried mixed peel
Zest of 1 lemon
2oz (55g) Crystallized ginger, diced
3 Large eggs, lightly beaten
1tsp (5ml) Vanilla extract
3tbsp (45ml) Brandy


300g Coloured glacé cherries, halved
3tbsp (45ml) Apricot jam
Squeeze of Lemon juice
Decorative ribbon


1. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C/Gas mark 1.
2. Line the cake tin inside and wrap the greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin too.
3. Spread out the nuts on a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes – keep checking them to make sure they don't burn!
4. Once they are done leave to one side but keep the oven on.
5. Sift the flour into a bowl and then add the rest of the cake ingredients.
6. Mix well until all the ingredients are combined.
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.
8.Bake for 1 hour and check if it is cooking on the top too quickly. Cover with greaseproof paper if it is.
9. Bake for another 30 minutes to 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean.
10. Bring the cake out of the oven but leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
11. When the cake is completely cooled arrange the cherry halves on top of the cake leaving no gaps.
12. Warm the apricot jam in a small saucepan add the lemon juice and then brush over the top of the cherries.
13. Leave the jam to set and then add the ribbon around the cake.

My Love Cake baking challenge this month is called 'It's in the book' and is all about delving into your cook books for inspiration and showing off your cook book collections.

Love Cake logo
Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com
Casa Costello


  1. This looks really stunning, it would be a perfect centrepiece on a tea table

    1. Such a simple way to decorate but very effective.

  2. such a clever name for this cake and it really looks so good!

    1. I can just imagine the cherries as rubies and emeralds!

  3. OOh a jewel style cake, LOVE it! Thanks for linking up to #tastytuesdays

  4. What a pretty idea for a cake! I love that the sponge has so many nuts in it too. Dense, but delicious!

  5. I'm not a big fan of proper fruit cakes, but this might be an interesting alternative. And the top is beyond gorgeous. My husband has got a birthday coming up. I am thinking of giving this a whirl.

  6. Ooh so pretty, it looks way too good to cut up and eat! #bakeoftheweek

  7. This cake looks so pretty :-) I bet it was so tasty with all of the nuts in x #bakeoftheweek

  8. Thanks so much for linking this up to #Bakeoftheweek - New Roundup now open. Congratulations on being a featured bake! x


I appreciate your comments. If you have any tips, tricks or tweaks please pass them on!