Make the tea with the tea leaves and boiling water. Leave to brew for 4 minutes. Strain the tea and leave to cool to room temperature.Pour the cooled tea all over the fruit, cover and leave overnight. Stir once before you go to bed, and again when you get up the next day.You could do this an hour before you start the recipe (instead of the night before), just pour the hot tea on the fruit, immediately after brewing.
Pour the brandy all over the fruit. Stir, cover, and leave to soak overnight. Stir a couple of times, once before you go to bed, and again when you get up.
Mix the Dry Ingredients (THE NEXT DAY)
Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the mixed spice and sodium bicarbonate. Cover, and set aside.This could be done later, while the sugar/fruit mix is cooling.
Let's get Cooking
Place the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed pan and stir, you will get a thick sludge-like mix.
Place the saucepan on medium-low heat and leave it to dissolve. Don't stir it yet.
After a couple of minutes, squeeze the lemon juice all over and give it a stir. The lemon juice will help to prevent crystallisation, which is what the cream of tartar in old recipes is for. Besides reacting with the sodium bicarb to aid rise.
Reduce the heat (to low) and leave the sugar to brown. You are going for a deep, golden brown colour. There is no need to stir.This step is to allow us to get that caramel flavour and dark colour synonymous with kek kukus. But you don't want the sugar burnt. To some extent, the darker the caramel, the darker your cake. But don't leave it to get too brown, as it'll get bitter, which means your cake will be bitter.Err on the side of caution. It's a fine line between yummy dark brown and burnt.
Add the butter and stir to melt and mix. Cutting the butter in a few pieces will make this step quicker. I am always too lazy for that!
Now add the mixed fruit (along with any leftover liquid, tea or alcohol), and stir well. Turn the heat up to medium and bring back to a simmer. Leave it to bubble gently for 2 minutes. Then, take it off the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.1 hour should do in cool climates. If you're in the tropics, place it somewhere cool, but not your fridge.
Let's get Steaming
At the end of the hour, fill the base of your steamer to its maximum point and place on the stove on high heat, as you get the cake ready to steam. Check it after 7-10 minutes. Once it's boiling, reduce the heat to low or medium-low to ensure the water is steaming away steadily.
Grease, line and grease a 20cm (8") cake pan. The first grease allows the liner to stick to the pan. The second grease is to allow your cake to come off easily, whether your liner is stick proof or not! Call it insurance.
Beat the eggs with a beater on medium speed for 20 seconds.
Pour the eggs into the cooled sugar/fruit mix and stir with a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly. So you don't want a mix that's too warm, as your eggs will scramble. This is why we want the mix to be at room temperature, or at the very least, lukewarm.
Stir in the vanilla, followed by the flour mix (which would have the mixed spice and sodium bicarb in). Mix everything up well, using a wooden spoon.
Pour the cake mix into your prepared tin, leaving a good inch at the top. Cover it with a layer of foil. Steam for 4 hours. Check with a cake tester to see that it's done. It should be.Top up the steamer, as necessary, with boiling water. Don't let it go dry.Traditional or electric steamers can be used. Both will require the same time.
Cool the cake completely on a wire rack, in its pan. Can be enjoyed immediately, but is better the next day. Even more so after 2 days as the flavours develop and the cake gets more moist.To store, take it out of the pan, and wrap with clingfilm, then a foil, and leave somewhere cool.If using alcohol, feel free to up the alcohol content by drizzling 2 Tbsp of brandy all over before stirring. And if keeping for a few weeks, you can keep topping it up with brandy once a week.
The steaming time for an electric steamer will be the same.