Baking fruit cakes is any bakers dream. I was aspiring to solve all the puzzles behind one rich and traditional fruit cake and I did accomplish to some extent one year back. And the whole year through my dream again was all about baking yet another rich, flavourful and one traditional style fruit cake. I unveiled all the mysteries behind and now I feel so complete as a baker. Rich fruit cake is no more a secret but all breeze.
- Unsalted butter – 250 gms
- All-purpose flour – 250 gms
- Powdered brown sugar – 1 1/2 cups
- Eggs – 3
- Baking Powder – 1 teaspoon
- Salt – 1/4 teaspoon
- Cinnamon – 1/2 inch stick
- Nutmeg – 1 broken roughly
- Cloves – 5
- Caraway Seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Ginger powder – 1/4 teaspoon
- Walnuts/Cashews/Almonds – 1 cup, mix of all nuts, or any one, depending on your choice
- All-purpose flour for dusting the dry fruits – 1/4 cup
- Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
- Caramel syrup – 1/2 cup
- Raisins – 1 cup
- Sultanas – 1 cup
- Seedless dates – 1 Cup
- Glaced red cherries – 1 cup
- Citrus fruit peel – 1/2 cup
- Apricots – 1/4 cup
- Figs – 1/4 cup
- Granulated white sugar – 2 cups
- water – 1/2 cup
- water – 1 cup (to “stop” the caramelization process)
What makes a fruit cake different from other cakes? Why would any new baker panic on fruit cakes ? Here is what I think about it
1. Soak fruits well in advance, we dont know how long before should we soak, and the whole process is a mystery until it is revealed. You can soak it just over night in case you are pressed for time and need an emergency fruit cake. Ideally fruits are soaked in september to bake the cake on first week of december so it has the time to mature before the festival. You can as well soak this year and use it for the following year. Yes you can soak it for one year. The more it soaks the richer your cakes would be.
2. Spices. Spices are added for flavour is one thing. I also assume or it could be a fact that its added for digesting the enormous quantity of fruits thats going inside the cake. Major spices include cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. You can add to this, cardamom, caraway seeds, cumin and dry ginger. Store bought spice powders are not original flavour I assume adulteration. So I process the dry whole spices along with granulated white sugar and make my own fine spice powder.
3. Low temperature and slow baking. Unlike other cakes, fruits cakes cant be baked at 175 degrees. There are huge amount of fruits which might burn first before the batter cooks. So we have to bake at low temperature letting fruits and cake to cook at the same time. By doing this, we have to increase the time of baking. That way we also should take care of the sides and bottom of the cake. Lining the pan with double parchment, covering the sides of the pan with newspaper and lining the baking tray with newspaper and placing the cake pan over it and baking for long hours are something to be handled with fruit cakes.
4. Letting to mature. Rich fruit cakes are not eaten fresh. Once baked and cooled they are supposed to be brushed with alcohol and covered with double cling wrap and placed in airtight containers and let at room temperature for about a month. The alcohol acts as a preservative. If left for long you should unwrap every week and brush again with alcohol and wrap it up and store.
5. What alcohol. Alcohol could be brandy/whisky/rum. Wine can also be used. You can stick to only one variety. Or you can combine any of them. It is completely your choice. You can play around and stick to one which suits your taste buds. What brand of each variety also depends on your choice. The better the quality the better the flavour of your cake.
Once you are clear with the subject this is just like creaming butter and sugar of any other recipe!
Enough of basics, lets get into the recipe.
Soaking fruits marks the begining of fruit cakes. I have a detailed post on how to soak fruits. Check it out here. To brief it up here, chop all the dry fruits finely as possible. Place them in a large bowl. Line your hands with dispossible gloves. Mash them nicely. Add caramel syrup and mash the fruits again. Add the spice powders and mash it well. Now add alcohol and mash again and transfer the fruits into an airtight jar and set aside to soak for days. It could soak starting from 1 week to 1 year. The more they soak the richer your fruit cake would be.
For the spice powders, I do not like the flavour of the powders available in market. I make my own. Get the dry whole spices listed in the ingredients, process them along with 2 teaspoons of granulated white sugar on high for about 3 to 5 minutes until it is finely powdered. Once after that, use a fine seive and mildly seive it and get the fine particles down. Store that and use it in place of spice powder for your fruit cake and soaking.
In a heavy bottomed vessel, add the sugar and 1/2 cup water and switch on stove on high flame. The sugar will melt and start boiling. Use a wooden spoon to mix until it comes to a rolling boil. Bring down flame to medium high. Have a pastry brush handy and a cup of water. Now do not stir anymore but use the pastry brush and brush some water and touch the sides of the pan which might tend to brown first. The colour of the sugar syrup will change from white to beige. Do not stir but shake the vessel slightly. Keep it back on fire. Colour will start changing now a little quickly from beige to brown. Once the whole caramel becomes brown in colour switch off stove and remove the vessel from stove. Wear your mittens and pour the additional 1 cup of water, standing at a distance. Pour the water slowly, a little at time. The caramel in the vessel will try to bubble up. Do not panic. Keep pouring the remaining water a little at a time, away from a distance until the whole water has been used up. Now mix the water to blend with the syrup completely and put it back on fire on high flame for a couple of minutes until it thickens a little bit. Do not leave it again for long, else you will have a very thick and sticky caramel. Cool it down completely and store in airtight container. This you can do few days ahead and refrigerate. Make sure you dont have your kids around doing this process.
Here is a video link to elaborate more on the caramel syrup process. Watch the wet caramel syrup starts at 4th minute of the video.
1. Pre-heat oven to 140 degree C. Line your deep 9 inch cake pan with double layer parchment paper. Also tie up a thick news paper around the sides of the cake pan. I used one 6 inch cake pan and remaining batter I split between disposible paper liners.
2. Sift together spices, flour, baking powder and salt. Keep aside.
3. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy about 5 minutes on your electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat well for about a minute after each addition.
4. Add vanilla extract and caramel syrup and beat well until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat just until combined. Do not over beat. Remove bowl from beater and fold in nuts and use a wooden spatula to mix using folding motion.
5. Measure 4 to 5 cups from the soaked fruits and place it in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of flour and toss well all over the fruits. We do this so the fruits do not sink at the bottom of the cake.
6. Add the tossed fruits into the batter and fold again so the fruits are mixed thoroughly.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. I decided to bake in several small giveaway liners, so gifting becomes easy 🙂
8. Line up the baking tray with a folded newspaper and place the pans on top of the paper. This is done to prevent the bottom of the cake from burning. Bake in the pre-heated oven at 140 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes, until the top is brown, firm and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Baking fruit cakes should be done on low temperature, slow baking for long hours. So all measure is being taken not to burn the cake. Cool on wire rack.So did u notice one more loaf that went inside oven is missing here ?!??!
9. Truly speaking, you should have one smaller loaf like I did, to munch it up, but its not worth to eat it right away.. Come on, control yourself. They have to be soaked again and let to mature. Ridiculous aint it ?! :D. But we have to.
Once completely cooled, place the cake on plastic liners, and brush or spoon alcohol as much as the cake could take or depending on how boozy you want your cake. Wrap it up with the liner. Make a double cover. Place it in air-tight container and let mature for about a month.
Before the day of gifting or using it for family, you can unwrap the cover and drizzle some icing sugar on top as a simple make over. You can also decorate it with royal icing, cover the cake with marzipan and top with christmas edible accessories made with marzipan. I’m going to let it mature and show you all the inside of cake after a while. Till then, happy baking !