What is Christmas without the classic fruit cake? There are variations of this cake, some are dark caramel, some are light, some are moist, some dry, some with just one variety of dry fruit, some with many. Some with alcohol- agan varaiations are there- Scotch Whisky, Rum, Brandy, Sherry, Wine.Usually the Christmas cake is made way in advance and alcohol is poured everyweek onto the cake till Christmas, the process is known as 'feeding' the cake. This is the real secret behind the moist effect and the long shelf life of the cake.
This photo was taken the day after it was baked, that is why it is looking dry. The cake gets moist as it sits. So it is a must to give the cake 10 days or more of resting period for the flavours to set in and also for the cake to turn moist.
I started baking when I was in college and one of the first experiments was fruit cake. Those days I used to follow Mrs BF Varghese's recipes. Wow, each recipe is worth trying!!! and my baking guru is Mrs BF Varghese's niece, Rebecca aunty. I learnt the first steps of baking in her kitchen.
I remember how I used to hate fruit cakes when I was a child, I always loved the 1234 cake that ammachy baked. So even for Christmas, it was that cake I used to have. Only as I grew old that I realized, fruit cakes are the best cakes in the world!!! O yes, even though Iam a die hard fan of chocolates, when it comes to cakes, chocolate cake takes only the 3rd position...after fruit cakes and 1234 cakes..:)))
So heres how I do it. Well, after marriage, I follow my Mom in law's Fruit cake recipe. Mrs B.F Varghese was mom in law's neighbour in Kottayam. Could be the reason.. :)))) My Mom-in-law's recipe is really a keeper!!!
Mom's recipe is equal weights. All the ingredients should weigh the same. A few of my friends have asked me to give cup measurements as they dont have a kitchen scale. So for them, after taking the weight, I measured in a cup (200 ml cup)
All Purpose Flour: 300 gms (2 1/4 cups)
Sugar: 300 gms (1 3/4 cups)
Butter: 300 gms (this I didnt measure coz You can buy 3 of 100 gm sticks)
Eggs: 300 gms (5 normal eggs)
Vanilla Essence: 1 1/2 tsp
Baking Powder: 3 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
The Dry Fruits:
Dry fruits: 300 gms
Rum: enough to soak the fruits completely
Chop the dry fruits and soak it thoroughly in Rum/Brandy atleast a day in advance. I usually soak a month in advance..You can even soak a year in advance!!!
For the dry fruits, you can use cranberries, prunes, Black Currants, dates, cashew, raisns, almonds, candied orange/lemon peel, candied ginger, apricots etc... totally up to u, this time I used almonds, golden raisns,walnuts, apricots,sultanas, orange peel and dates
I usually soak 1 kg of dried fruits in one a half litres of Rum)
For the Caramel:
Granulated Sugar: 1 cup
Hot Water: 1/2 cup
Heat the sugar in a pan with 1 tbsp water. Swirl the pan but should not use spoon. When it turns a dark brown colour and bubbles start forming, turn off the stove and pour the 1/2 cup hot water. Keep it aside. Let it come to room temperature (otherwise it will spoil your batter if you use it hot)
The caramel colour is also up to you, you can stop when your preferred colour is reached.. light brown to very dark brown)
The Spice Powders:
Cinnamon: a stick
Cake Jeera/Caraway seeds: 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg Powder: 1/4 tsp
Powder it inyour dry grinder and keep aside for use in the batter.
Let the butter and egg come to room temperature.
Pre heat the oven 180 C
Grease and dust your baking tray/cake pan.
Sift the Flour, Baking Powder and salt together atleast thrice and keep aside.
To this add the spice powders and mix with a spoon
Separate the egg yolks and whites
In a clean and dry bowl, beat the egg whites till soft peaks are formed. At this stage, even when you invert the bowl, it will not fall down, like in the picture.
Cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Add egg yolks to it one a time and beat till everything is mixed properly.
To this, add the cooled caramel and vanilla essence and again beat till well combined.
Now keep away the cake beater. From this stage on, we will use only a wooden spatula.
Keep a handful of flour aside.
Now gently fold in the rest of the flour till everything is combined. Make sure you do not do it hard, and also when you mix, do it only in one direction (we dont want gluten forming and making the cake hard)
Now take the soaked fruits and toss it in the handful of flour we kept aside.
Now gently mix the fruits. Yes, the soaked Rum/brandy also goes into the batter.
Now carefully fold in the egg whites till it is completely mixed and no white is visible.
Now transfer the batter to prepared cake pans, smooth the top and into the oven it goes.
Baking time varies but fruit cakes usually take longer than tea cakes. Check after 45 minutes and if a tooth pick inserted to the middle comes out clean, then it is done.
Also, if the pan is small, it wont take that long to bake. The long tin took 50 minutes and the small round tin took 40 minutes.
When it comes out of the oven, Pour a tbsp of Rum/Brandy on the cake. You can keep pouring a tbsp every week till Christmas (if you prefer) or just forget the whole thing coz youve actually mixed a fair amount in the batter.
Now keep it covered in a cool dark place till the flavours set in. (10 days to 2 weeks, but atleast give it a weeks time)
A good friend, Prita tried the recipe and this is her picture.