My main inspiration to bake a fruit cake was a Christmas Cake Competition held by the Minnesota Malayalee Association (MMA) for their yearly Christmas celebrations. Its a fun gathering mostly of Minnesotan Malayalees and their friends to celebrate and be merry during this Christmas season. Every year they conduct Christmas Tree and Christmas Cake competitions. A lovely Christmas lunch is served followed by a blast of awesome and spectacular cultural events performed by adults and children alike. Events include plays, solo/group dances, solo/group singing and lots of fun activity. Its an event we try not to miss every year. So this time I planned to take part in the cake competition!
Actually I baked two Christmas Fruit Cakes, first one for our Wedding Anniversary , which we cut on a private plane by the way (story coming ahead) and the second cake for the competition for which I bagged 2nd prize...so a lovely read coming up, keep all your chores aside and enjoy the post and the lovely pics :-)
Christmas cakes are usually made well before Christmas, almost a month in advance, and the cake is stored upside down and put into an airtight container. Then a small amount of Rum/Brandy/Sherry is poured over the cake periodically. This is called "feeding" the cake. The cakes usually have red and green candied fruit (tutti-fruitti), raisins and other dried fruit, orange peel , cashews or other nuts, in addition to spices and just enough flour to keep all the fruits together.During Christmas season, bakeries in Kerala would be selling out these traditional Fruit/Plum cakes in bulk and every house will have atleast 4-5 or more fruit cake boxes, either waiting to be gifted or received as gifts.
Its best if the dry fruits are soaked in Rum/Brandy several weeks/months prior to making the fruit cake, as this allows the fruits to become moist, juicy and absorb all that Rum goodness :-) But I hadn't planned in advance, so I soaked mine for just 2 weeks. We went and bought a bottle of Rum and chopped up the dry fruits and soaked them in the Rum with some Caramel syrup. Here's a before and after shot of how these fruits look 2 weeks later. (By the way, for those who want a non-alcoholic version could use Orange or Grape juice and refrigerate them, from what I've read)
And so, after I finalized on my recipe after going over several blogs and friend's recipes, I baked my first ever Christmas Fruit Cake or Christmas Plum Cake or Rum Cake, call it what you like...
OK, I'm going to digress from my Fruit Cake story here to share my lovely Wedding Anniversary surprise. So we celebrated 4 years of married bliss on Dec 13th and Manish had told me there was a surprise and that we had to reach somewhere by 11:30am and that we could cut the cake there.
As we drove, I had no idea what to expect, specially when it was all snowed out everywhere and he had already mentioned it was not a restaurant or resort. And then he drives into this place which almost looked barren but had lots of private airplanes , some in their hangars, some stationary and some taxiing away. And my jaw dropped when I realised we are going to FLY in a private airplane...and my heart wouldn't stop thumping from the excitement...Lol!!! Best surprise ever , would you agree? :-)
I baked again for my MMA cake competition The cake would be judged based on Flavor, Cake Texture and overall Presentation and also no Icing for decoration but Rum in the cake was ok :-).
For the cake presentation I wanted a lovely Christmas theme and as I was using a Red tablecloth with golden thread pattern , I decided to incorporate the same colors in all my decoration along with some Green. And this is what I came up with :-)
Here's a pic with me walking off the stage with my award, smiling from ear-to-ear! :-) (Thanks a lot to an MMA friend for having taken this snap)
This recipe yields about Two Round 8" cakes or a large Bundt Cake :-) (I bet if we used 6" cake pans, you may get 3 cakes, so its a lot of batter)
Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe
Dry fruits - 3 cups (I used Golden raisins,Black Currants,Prunes,Dates,Glazed Cherries & Pineapple, Apricot, Cashews)
Rum - as required (I used CaptianMorgan's Spiced Rum , Unflavored Dark rum preferred)
Caramel syrup - 4 tblsp (4 tblsp sugar + 2tblsp water)
For Caramel Syrup (to be used in Cake) - yields 1½ cups of Caramel syrup
Sugar - 1½ cups
Water - 1 tbslp
Hot Water - ¾ cup
For Spice mix
Cinnamon powder - ½ tsp
Clove powder - ½ tsp (crush about 8-10 cloves)
Cardamom powder - ½ tsp
Nutmeg powder - ½ tsp
Jeera powder - ½ tsp
Dried ginger powder - ½ tsp
For Fruit Cake (entire ingredient list)
Butter - 1 cup or 2 sticks (at room temperature)
Powdered sugar (confectioners sugar) - 2 ½ cups
Eggs Yolks - 4
All purpose flour - 2 ½ cups
Baking powder - 2 tsp
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Spice mix (as mentioned above)
Coarsely powdered nuts (skinless Almonds and Walnuts) - 1 cup
Orange Marmalade - 4 tblsp
Orange Zest - 1 tsp
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Caramel Syrup (as mentioned above)
Rum soaked dry Fruits - as mentioned above
Egg Whites - 4
Powdered sugar - 2 tblsp
For Soaking the fruits
Atleast 2-3 weeks in advance , chop all the dry fruits and place them in an airtight container, soaking them in required amount of Rum and 4tblsp Caramel syrup. For Caramel syrup, heat 4tblsp sugar on medium heat until the sugar melts and browns up. Take off the heat and carefully add the water and stir well and use.
For Caramel Syrup (to be used in Cake)
Starting by heating the 1.5 cups of sugar with 1 tblsp water on medium heat in a deep bottomed saucepan. Shake/stir the sugar once in a while and wait patiently until it slowly melts without any lumps. Keep stirring now and allow it to continue heating until the caramel syrup looks almost dark brown or black in color. Take it off the stove and add the hot water and stir well.
Tip: The sugar syrup will splash out when adding the hot water, so its best to stand away a bit and I used oven mittens on the hand with which I was pouring the water in, to avoid any unwanted burns :-)
For the Fruit Cake
1. Preheat Oven to 350F and grease your Cake pan(s) and cover the bottom and sides with greased parchment paper. (I used a non-stick Bundt cake pan, so I only had to grease the pan)
2. Sift together all the dry ingredients - Flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and Spices. Add the powdered nuts, mix well and keep aside.
3. Beat the butter with powdered sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time until well incorporated. Add in the dry ingredients slowly and mix until combined.
4. Add the Vanilla essence, Orange Marmalade, Orange zest and Caramel syrup and smoothly combine everything together.
5. Strain the rum soaked fruits (save the rum) , and coat them with some all-purpose flour to avoid the fruits from sinking to bottom of cake and add the fruits into the cake batter , Use a large wooden spoon to fold/mix the fruits into the cake evenly.
6. Beat the Egg Whites (in a clean bowl) until soft peaks form , then add 2 tblsp powdered sugar and continue to beat until the peaks look stiff and glossy and gently fold it into the cake batter.
7. Pour the cake batter into your prepared cake pan(s) and bake for 1 hour. (Mine baked for 1 hr 7 mins) - Each oven is different, so do a cake test at 55 mins - insert a toothpick into the cake center If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
1. After taking the cake out from the oven, pour 2-3tblsp of the saved rum over the cake. Allow the cake to cool for 15 mins and then flip the cake pan onto a wire-rack.
2. Once cooled release the cake from pan and brush the sweet rum (from the strained fruits) all over the cake.
3. Keep the cake covered with aluminium foil/plastic wrap and everyday brush the cake with more Rum , until you cut the cake.
Very useful Tips and Suggestions:
1. Though its best to soak the fruits several months in advance, soaking them for just 2-3 days is also quite sufficient. They will still absorb most of the rum and the fruits will be juicy and moist.
2. Another method is to boil the dry fruits with the rum and caramel syrup, so that the fruits get tender and still absorbs all the flavors.
3. The Rum mixed with the fruits and caramel syrup has a lot of flavor , so that's the best for brushing over the cake.
4. The blacker your caramel syrup , the darker your Cake will be (we don't want yellow fruit cake now, do we? :-) ) , but be careful not to burn the syrup or your hand :-P
5. The Spice mix adds a lot of flavor to the cake and balances the sweetness from all the caramel syrup and fruits, so don't skip it. You may reduce the quantity if you prefer.
6. The Eggs add volume to the cake and keeps the cake together. If you prefer to use less eggs, then you may have to reduce the quantity of flour too.
7. Placing the greased parchment paper at the bottom and sides of cake pan is very important , it allows the cake from not drying up during the long baking time.
8. If the cake takes longer to bake than 1 hour, cover the cake top with aluminium foil and turn the cake pan and continue to bake and check every 5 mins until done.
9. The Cake flavor and color matures more and more each day. So resist your temptation for atleast 1 or 2 days after the cake is baked :-)
I definitely had a lot of fun making Christmas Fruit Cake for the very first time and I'm sure I'll be baking one every year from now on! Happy Holidays everyone!!
I'm sharing this cake with my fellow bloggers for the lovely events they are hosting:
1. Cake for Christmas event hosted by Ramya of Ramya's Recipe
2. CC - Holiday Baking hosted by Sravani of Srav's Culinary Concepts