Plum cakes – the spiced dark brown cakes studded with dried fruits (mainly raisins) – are popular in Kerala all year around. Don’t be fooled by the name, there is rarely any plum in there. I suspect the name stayed because of the dark raisins and the overall spicy dark flavors of the cake. During Christmas time these takes on a richer version , and becomes the Christmas fruit cake. Every year we make this traditional cake, and sometimes we run out of ingredients or time and make this easy version. I never feel that it is quite the same texture wise but in terms of taste there is very little difference.
The traditional recipe was created ages ago and handed down from generation to generation to make use of the best available ingredients. Things have changed quite a bit, and thankfully, we can make a very good cake with much less time and effort. But can it replace the one with rich story and history behind it? Definitely not , so if you have the time ,I urge you to give the original version a try.
Often times I make these as a sheet cake and slice into small rectangles and wrap like toffee. These kind of single serving version were very popular bakery item throughout my childhood. Another fun thing about this is that since it is so loaded with fruits and nuts just a couple of substitutions is all it takes to make this into an energy bar. Substitution for the energy bar is given at the end of the post. These individually wrapped versions are a big hit in the lunch box 🙂 as well.
Looking at the fruit cake recipe and here is what you see
- Dried fruits
Yes it is a party in there 😉 , and yes it takes a lot of hard work !
When I adapted this recipe for my my one bowl, rather one mixing bowl, fruit cake, these were the flavors I wanted in there. In other words this is a quick recipe , but not an egg free, alcohol free, or any free recipe. Not that I am opposed to any of these versions – I just refuse to classify them under Christmas cake or Kerala Plum Cake.
The dry fruits need to be soaked for a little while. Chop them small think 1/2 centimeter. Do not use a food processor, we do not want fruit paste. Big chunks of fruits tend to sink to the bottom, hence keep the small. Add a little warm orange juice to the fruit mix and give it a good stir. Set aside for 10 minutes. If you have fresh squeezed orange juice all the better and do not discard the rind . With fresh Oranges grate the zest and squeeze the fresh juice over the fruits. Packaged orange juice or apple juice will work as well, but won’t be as flavorful.
Both the dry and the wet ingredients get mixed in the same bowl. The trick to this cake is beating the eggs well. as well as sifting the dry ingredients. When the butter egg mixture is beaten well and the the dry ingredients are incorporated with the minimum of mixing the cake will hold its volume well and with uniform distribution of fruits . As long as you start with room temperature ingredients the mixing will be easy.
Easy Plum Cake
- 2 C AP Flour 220 g, unbleached
- 1 C Butter 220 g
- 3/4 C Brown Sugar 150 g
- 4 Eggs
- 3 C Dry Fruits 300 g ( See Notes)
- 1/2 C Chopped Nuts
- 1 C Orange Juice
- 1 Tbsp Orange/lemon Zest
- 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- 2 Tsp Baking Powder
- 2 Tsp Powdered Spices Notes
- 1/2 Tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 1 Tsp Caraway Seeds Crushed
- 3/4 C Milk
For Rum Syrup (Optional)
- 1/2 C Water
- 4 Tbsp Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Rum
- Warm the 1 C orange juice and pour over the chopped fruits. Stir well and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Sift the dry ingredients - flour, salt,baking soda and spice powders - well. Add the caraway seeds (if using) and mix well. Take 1 tbsp of the flour mix and add to the chopped nuts. Stir to coat.
- Butter and flour the cake pan or line with parchment paper and set aside. Place the oven rack in the center and pre-heat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Drain the fruits and discard the remaining juice. Add 2 tbsp of the flour mix to the drained fruits and toss to coat. Set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar really well. Add the eggs one by one beating until it is mixed well into the mixture. Keep mixing for a couple more minutes until fluffy and increased in volume.
- Fold the flour mix in 3 equal batches adding 1/2 the milk between each addition . Start and end with the flour. Fold in the nuts and fruits and immediately pour into the prepared pan. Level the top and transfer to the oven. Reduce the heat to 350°F (175°C) and bake for 40 minutes or until the tops are brown and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- For 13 X 9 " pan this batter will take about 40 minutes to bake. Adjust the baking times for the pans used.
- Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.
- Mix 1/2 C Water and 4 Tbsp Sugar in a small pan. Heat over medium, till it comes to a boil. Boil for a minute and add the rum . Mix well and boil for another minute Turn off the heat.
- With a pastry brush brush the syrup over the warm cake. Set aside to cool.
- Cool completely before slicing.
- Chop the dry fruits and nuts small.
- My spice mix usually includes - 1Tsp of Cinnamon, 1/2 Tsp Powdered Ginger, 1/4 Tsp Nutmeg and 1/2 Tsp Cloves. Cardamom, and all spice are other favorite aromatic spices.
- All ingredients for the batter should be at room temperature
- Mix the wet ingredients well until pale and fluffy
- Sift the dry ingredients and mix well .
- Fold in the dry ingredients with the minimum of stirring.
- Fold in the fruits last by hand.
To Make Plum Cake Energy Bar
- Use Whole Wheat Flour
- Increase Milk by 2 Tbsp
- Replace half or all of the sugar with honey