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Estelle Brand's Famous Fruit Cake Recipe

February 5th, 2019, by African Travel

We are proud to share the recipe of Nelson Mandela's favorite cake: Estelle Brand's famous fruit cake. The cake was smuggled into Robben Island prison by Christo Brand, who shared it with with Mandela and other political prisoners. It quickly became a sensation in the prison and was frequently requested by Nelson Mandela. 


  • 500g (18 oz.) mixed fruit
  • 250g (9 oz.) finely chopped dates
  • 100g (4 oz.) candied fruit
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 130g (5 oz.) butter or margarine, chopped into small slivers
  • 1 cup coffee (1 cup of hot water and 2 teaspoons of NescafĂ©)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 candied cherries, halved
  • 3 tablespoons of brandy


Put the butter, sugar, mixed fruit, dates, candied fruit and coffee into a bowl and microwave for 5 minutes on full power. When it comes out of the microwave, add the baking soda and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, all the spices and salt, and then fold this into the dried fruit, coffee, baking soda and butter mixture.

Beat in the 2 eggs and fold in the 8 candied cherries and mix well. Line the base of a microwaveable bowl with baking powder and grease the sides with butter. Tip the cake batter into the prepared bowl. The bowl must be approximately three-quarters full because the cake will rise about a quarter. Bake at medium/low power for 30 minutes. When it comes out of the microwave, put the brandy over the top immediately, then leave it to cool for a few minutes.

Once you can touch the sides of the dish, turn it out on to a rack. Once the cake is cold, wrap it in foil and every second week add a further 3 tablespoons of brandy. Mrs. Brand says that it is important to make the cake on the first of October so that it can have long enough to get moist and brandy-laden by the Christmas season. Enjoy!

CST #2071444-20