Australian Pumpkin Fruit Cake – A very old recipe off a tea box

This beautiful looking fruitcake being baked by a friend, popped up on my wall this morning.  With her permission, I am

This beautiful looking fruitcake being baked by a friend, popped up on my wall this morning.  With her permission, I am sharing it with you.  It’s an old recipe from a Bushell’s Tea box and it looks amazing.  

4 Bushells Tea bags 

250ml (1 cup) boiling water

300g caster sugar (1 and 1/4 cups)

1 tablespoon golden syrup

500g (3 cups) mixed dried fruit

1 teaspoon bicarb of soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 eggs beaten

1 cup cold, mashed pumpkin

125g (1 cup) self raising flour

125g (1 cup) wholemeal flour

Blanched almonds and glazed cherries for decoration

Cover Bushells tea bags with boiling water, stand until cold.  Remove tea bags, squeezing to extract all flavour, then discard.  Place margarine, sugar, golden syrup, dried fruit, bicarbonate of soda, and cinnamon into a pan, bring to the boil, stirring, and simmer 10 minutes, then cool.  Stir eggs and pumpkin into fruit mixture then gently stir in flours.  

Place mixture in a lined and greased 20cm round or square cake tin.  Decorate top with almonds and cherries.  Bake in a moderate oven at 180C for 30 minutes then reduce temperature to 120C for a further 1 hour.  Cool in tin.  


Thanks to Bev Malzard for sharing this one with us today!  Here’s the photo she sent in!  


  1. Sandra  

    The 125g margarine or butter has been left off the recipe.

  2. Do you add the margarine, sugar, golden syrup, dried fruit, bicarbonate of soda to the tea water?

    • Gloria  

      yes you do

      • vivienne ralph  

        I have just made this cake, like everyone else could not see where to add the tea?With all ingredients mixed it would have been very runny if I added more liquid so I guess the cake will be a flop when it comes out of the oven.

    • Lyn Jacklin  

      I would also like to know this as nothing is mentioned in the instructions!

  3. Robyn  

    The recipe can’t be that old if it has Margarine in it

    • Glenda  

      As a young child, I can remember Eta margarine. It had a disgusting taste; although my mother never used it but my Aunty did.

    • Sammi  

      Margarine has been around for a very long time

  4. Charlie  

    Margarine was actually invented in France in 1869 for the French troops so it has been around for a while, I’m in my 60s and I remember eating it as a child.

    • Jude  

      Me too and I’m almost 62. Terrible tasting stuff it was back then. Really only used for cooking.

    • Ivan  

      Margarine back then was not polyunsaturated. It was a poor mans’s butter and used mainly for cooking. It did taste terrible if substituted for butter.

  5. Judy  

    1 cup of flour is usually 250g – if it was on the old Bushells tin it would be in oz not grams. I think the measurements are a bit strange – love to try it though.

    • Josephine B  

      Judy, metric came to Australia on 12th June 1970. So are we questioning this recipe from all angles. I’m just willing to try it as it sounds yum!.

  6. Josephine B  

    Charlie, Now we’re showing our age as I too remember mum having it when I was in my teens and I’m now early 70’s. Margarine in Australia was originally pink back in 1939 and Meadow Lea (Oliver Triggs named the first production line) changed it to yellow as they felt people wouldn’t like their “butter” being pink, so wasn’t on the grocers shelves until 1960’s. Anyway, this sounds OK, so I’m going to give it a try today since I do have everything needed.

  7. Cheryl  

    Definitely not an old recipe by my views – but I am only 65 – as the ingredients are in metric, and teabags weren’t around in my youth. Fortunately the photo of the ‘old recipe’ was included as there is no mention of margarine in ingredients but is in method. But there is also no mention of when to include tea. I have a vague recollection that the fruit was soaked in the hot tea but happy to be corrected.

    • Jennifer Powell  

      I am with you Cheryl I remember soaking fruit in tea way back.

    • Gloria  

      The tea is soaked in the cup of water.
      This is almost the same as a boiled fruit cake recipe that I have, only with pumpkin, very moist & delicious and fool proof

  8. moira  

    Not an old recipe despite the surrounding illustrations.Tea bags were not around in the 1950s and we didn’t go metric till the late 1960s

  9. Valerie  

    I to remember Bushells tea and it was not a tea bag also we can’t buy it any more. Will try this recipe and give Bell tea bags ago.

  10. Wendy  

    If I remember right my Mum used to make this sometimes, but she used cold leftover tea from a teapot
    Margarine was around in the 50’s it was gross and not the same as we are used to today , we mainly had butter I remember Dad having dripping on fresh bread with tomato sauce a couple of times

  11. Wendy  

    I also have a recipe for fruit cake using coffee as the liquid

  12. Sue  

    Use butter and cut back on sugar, it will still work and a bit healthier

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