X’mas Fruit Cake

Christmas Cakes  and  stars on the  front  porch  are  major  part of my memories of   X’mas  in  Kerala. It  did  not  matter  whether  you were a christian  or not,  stars  and the fruit cakes  were  enjoyed by all.  Here  was   a  recipe that  in all probability  was introduced by the   Europeans,  embraced  by  locals  who  turned  it into their  own. This celebration  cake hardly needs  any frills.  This Christmas Fruit Cake was  filled  with  dry fruits  and  nuts, generously  spiced   and  enriched with  butter  and  eggs.  Tender,  sweet , spicy  and  fruity it  was indeed a  treat  to wait for.  Served   with a  glass  of  homemade   wine ,   these  were  simply irresistible .

In the  olden days  these  were  made  only during  the  Christmas.  To make  them  last   longer some of  these   were liberally soaked  in  alcohol   for  preservation. Bakeries used to  place a thick  layer  of  fondant on the  cakes to preserve  the freshness . When I first started baking   fruit  cakes, my  go to recipe   was  that  of Mrs. K.M  Mathews .  She was  among the  first  to  catalog many of  the   traditional recipes of  south India.  Over  the  years  it  the  ingredients  have  changed  my recipe  has  evolved  into  what  I have  today .
X'mas Fruit Cake

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours

X'mas Fruit Cake

Ingredients

Chopped dry fruits - 500 gm (roughly 3 C )
Rum/brandy - 1/2 C
Chopped nuts - 100 gm (3/4 C)
Butter - 225 gm (1 C)
Sugar - 250 gm ( 1 to 1 1/4 C)
Eggs - 4
All Purpose Flour / Whole wheat Pastry Flour - 250 gm (1 1/2 C)
Baking Powder - 1 Tsp
Salt - A Pinch
Cloves - 1 Tsp
Cinnamon - 1 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg - 1/4 tsp (freshly grated)
Caraway Seeds - 1/2 Tsp
Vanilla Essence - 1 Tsp
Orange Zest - 1 Tbsp
Milk - 1/2 C
Hot Water - 1/2 C
Lemon -1

Instructions

Pour the brandy/rum over the chopped fruits , toss well and set aside covered for several hours.

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature . Prepare the caramel by heating 4 Tbsp sugar over medium heat . Once the sugar turns brown add 1/2 C hot water , stir and bring to a vigorous boil . Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C) (Refer to notes ).

Sift the dry ingredients - the flour , baking powder, salt , and the spice powders together and set aside .Cream the butter and sugar , reserving 2 tbsp sugar .Separate the eggs whites and yolks .Add the yolks one by one to the butter mixture and mix well .Mix in the orange and lemon zests and vanilla essence . Toss the dry fruits in 2 tbsp flour add to the butter mix.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks along with 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp lemon juice . Add 1/2 C milk to cooled caramel to make 1 C liquid. Add 2 tbsp flour mix to the chopped nuts and toss to coat well.

Add the remaining flour and caramel mixes in parts to the butter mixture to form a thick lump free batter . Fold in the the nuts . Stir in part of the beaten egg whites to loosen the thick batter . Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites .Transfer to the prepared pans .

Bake 40 to 60 minutes (refer to notes ) or until the tops are browned and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely .Store in an airtight container.

https://oventales.com/xmas-fruit-cake/
The recipe  calls  for some  prep work ahead of  time. I know many who start soaking  fruits weeks  if  not  months  in advance.

The  very first   step  is  to   chop   dry fruits   and  soak  them in  rum /brandy. This is  often done  days in advance .  Usually  the fruits  will be a  combination of   black and   golden  raisins  and  dates .  Interestingly  these  were  not  native  fruits in  Kerala  and  were   shipped   from   far .  Lacking  proper  food  storage  and  transportation  facilities  these  were  dried  until every last  ounce of  moisture  was   taken  out . A  touch of  alcohol  brought  the   fruits back to life   without  significantly raising the  water content.  The long baking  time of  these  cake  ensured  that   virtually  all the alcohol  got  cooked  away.   Now a  days  it is  easier to   find   dried  fruit   that  are still  soft, so   this  long soaking  is  not  as  important  as  it  was  .  I would  still  recommend  soaking  for  a  few  hours  at  least ,  giving  it a  few  shakes  in between  to  distribute  the  alcohol  evenly.

Another  dried  component  was  the candied  orange peel.  Oranges   were  not  an indigenous   crop of  South  India . The  candied  citrus peel   would  have  been a  way to incorporate  the   citrus   that  was  only available   seasonally .   Personally  I am not a  fan of  all  that   synthetic  coloring  that  goes into commercially  available  candied  citrus  or (tuti fruti ).   One can  make   the   candied  citrus  peel  at  home ,  but   with   fresh  oranges   being  available  pretty  much  year  around  I  prefer  to   grate   the    zest .  But  it is a  matter  of  personal  preferences .

 

It is  very important to start with room temperature ingredients .  So this  is  the  time  to  get  the  butter , eggs  and milk  out of  the   fridge , if you haven’t done  so already.  The  next step is  to  caramelize  sugar .   Heat  sugar (4 tbsp)  in a  heavy bottomed pan .  Keep  the  heat  at medium   till the   sugar  melts , then   reduce  to  low.  Once  the  melted  sugar  turns  brown (caramel)  add  1/2 cup of  hot  water   to it .  Be  careful of  the   steam being  generated .  Increase heat  to medium .  Some  sugar  might  have  lumped  up .  Give  it a  good  stir  and  let  it  come  back to  boil . Turn   the  heat off  once  the  liquid  starts to  boil.
 Prepare  the pans .  I like  to  butter  and  line    with parchment paper   and  give the   sides  a tall  collar.  The tall collar  helps  the  cakes  to  rise  evenly  without  forming  a muffin top  .
Sift  the   dry ingredients  together –  the  flour ,  baking powder ,  the  powdered  spices   and  salt.  Add  caraway seeds , if  using ,   and  give  the mix  a  good  stir . Set  aside . Cream the butter and  sugar,  reserving  2  tablespoons of  sugar  .   Always  start  with  room temperature  butter  and   eggs .   Here I  were  using  fine  sugar ,  if   you have   large sugar  granules   give in a buzz  in the  food  processor .
Separate  the   whites  and   yolks .  Some   white  in  yolk is  not an issue , but  there  should  be  no yolk in the   whites .  Ensure  that  the  bowl containing  the  yolks  do not  have  any traces  of  fat/oil  in it .
Mix in the   yolks  to the   butter  sugar  mixture . Add them one  by one . You  will  notice  the   mix   changing  color .
Add  orange  and  lemon zest  as  well as  vanilla  essence  and  mix  well .  Drain the  dry fruits off  any excess alcohol  ,add  2  tablespoons  of  the   flour  mix   to it  and  toss  to  coat .  Combine  the  fruits   with the  butter  sugar  mixture  and  set  aside .
Beat  egg  whites   with   the  reserved  2  tablespoon  sugar  and 1  teaspoon  lemon  juice till stiff  peaks   form . Take 2  tablespoon  flour  and toss with the  chopped nuts   .  Mix milk  to the  caramel   syrup . Set aside.
   Add  the  flour  and  the  liquid   in parts to  the   fruit  mix   to  form  a  thick batter . Start  and  end   with  flour . Gently fold in  the  nuts .
The  batter at  this  stage    is  very thick .  Loosen the batter by stirring in part of the   egg  whites   .  Fold in the   rest  of  the  egg  whites  gently ,  taking  care  to  retain as  much of  the  air  captured in the  egg  whites  as  possible .

Transfer  to  the  prepared pans . Smooth  the   tops  and place  the pans  in  preheated  oven .  Bake    40  to  60 minutes   depending on the  size of  the  pans  and  the depth of the   cakes .  The   cake is  done  when   tops  brown  and a  tester /tooth pick  inserted in the middle  comes  out  clean .

These  cakes  can  be  made  very  tall . 3 inches is   quite   common .

XmasFruitCake30

 

Cool in the pan  for  5  minutes  , before   transferring  to a  rack to  cool  completely .  The flavors in  this  cake  mature  with  time .  If  you plan  to  keep it  for longer  than  a  few  days you can  brush  it   with   rum/brandy   and   store in  an  airtight  container at  room  temperature . The  alcohol is intended to   keep it   from  drying  out  and  going  stale . Alternately   these can be  refrigerated or  frozen .

Notes :

  • The   dry fruit mix   determine  the  hue  of  the  cake . If  you  like it  darker  add  more black  raisins /  dates   and   increase  golden  raisins  for  more of a  yellow  shade .  You can    experiment  with currants ,  dried   cherries , cranberries ,   figs   , apricot  and  a  variety of  other  fruit .
  • For  these  cakes  I  typically  preheat my oven to 400 °F (200 °C).   Once  the  cake is  placed in  the  oven  the   temperature is  reduced to  350  °F (175 °C).  If  the   cake  is  being  baked  for  over  40 minutes I   further  reduce  the  oven temperature  to  325 °F  (160 °C)
  • Cinnamon , cloves  and nutmeg  are  the  spices  used  here , but  these  cakes  are spiced   with cardamon , ginger , mace  as  well .

 

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