The Great British Bake Off 2019: how to avoid a fruitcake disaster like Dan's

Dan in the bake off tent 
Dan, pictured, was the first elimination of the season  Credit: Television Stills

It was Dan Chambers’ Jamaican fruit cake that had him banished from the Great British Bake Off tent. Sure, Michelle Evans-Fecci’s bara brith teulu ni with Welsh whisky wasn’t perfect; David Atherton’s ‘squishy squashy’ fruit cake was as malleable as the name suggests; and Helena's 'fruit bat cake' was missing the crucial winged element, but it was Dan's last-minute fruit addition that spelled disaster for the 34-year-old. 

Last night, millions of viewers huddled around their televisions for the first episode of Great British Bake Off, where a team of bakers took on a host of challenges rich in nostalgia – and butter – including a traditional fruit cake, a retro technical challenge of angel cake slices, and the showstopper: the birthday cake of their childhood dreams. 

From flat sponges to raw mix, there are plenty of lessons to be learnt from the bakers of GBBO this year  Credit:  DOUGAL WATERS

It began hopefully: we admired Amelia Le Bruin’s Christmas cake with its masses of fruit soaked in brandy; Michael Chakraverty’s ‘cup of chai’ fruit cake ( with an actual cup of chai placed inside); and enjoyed the little slice of sunshine that was Priya O'Shea's tropical loaf.

And lets not forget Jamie Finn’s Easter simnel cake complete with visually impaired chicks and pale green exterior. But it was Dan and his offering of a raw Jamaican fruit cake that struck a chord with those among us who find joy in whipping up the odd cake (or two). 

For have we not all committed the cardinal sin of improvisation while baking, perhaps in the form of a simple switch from caster sugar to granulated, or maybe we, like Dan, just added just a little more fruit in the hope that everything would be okay?

This challenge turned out to be anything but a piece of cake for the bakers. And the retro themed technical round – a 15 step recipe for angel cake slices, set by Prue Leith, requiring a Genoese sponge, Italian buttercream and feathered fondant icing – yielded little success, with most lacking height and correct texture, generally turning out far less heavenly and more... sat on.

There is an important lesson to be learnt in this episode. To echo the words of Prue, “the key to success is accuracy.” It turns out that there is a lot to be said for precision and keeping your cool in the kitchen if you want to achieve perfection – not least avoid a soggy bottom.  

So, here we've shared our very best fruitcake recipes from the Telegraph's award-winning columnist Diana Henry. From apricot and ginger to a luscious chocolate and vanilla fruitcake with bourbon, these deliciously moreish and nostalgic cakes are worthy of the GBBO tent – just remember to follow the recipes closely.