Love this time of the year… (in spite of the weather..). Everyone around in a celebratory mood, all the houses lighted up, people swarming in decorated shopping malls, families and friends exchanging gifts and holiday greetings… everything just rubs off onto you. Usually Thanksgiving to Christmas/Year end is, for us, our vacation time in India. However, for some reason, we could not make our annual trip back home or any other within-the-country trips. Still it has been a good one overall. Went out for Christmas shopping, spent time with friends… eating in and eating out whenever our hearts desired… Lots and lots of baking at home and an overdose of magic and romance with the Hallmark movie channel.
My usual recipe for cake, as and when occasion calls for it, is my mom’s sponge cake recipe . This is a sure shot recipe that all my friends have tried and succeeded without fail. However I was getting a little bored with the same recipe and was longing to try something different. I never planned for the fruit cake, rather I had come across a wonderful coffee cake recipe and would have made it for sure. And then the Bongmom posted that she was using Alton Brown’s fruit cake recipe for her Christmas cake. To me it looked like a lot of ingredients and effort. But I thought – “what the heck… it isn’t as if I have a lot of important tasks at hand…!’… why not? So, made a list of all the required ingredients, bought whatever I could easily find, bought a new Bundt pan and got all hyper-excited about it.
Once I finished making it, I surely had to revise my opinion on the effort part – trust me – it is not that much work as it looks like. Just don’t get over whelmed with the whole thing. What takes time is – 1. soaking the fruits in the alcohol (you also have a shortcut microwave method for that) and 2. Cooling of the boiled mixture to room temperature (as described below). You don’t even have to tire your hands beating the batter or use a mixer/processor, so it really is pretty easy.
Usually this cake is made 2-3 weeks to a month ahead of time and then stored and sprayed with brandy every once in a while. However, I started making it 2 days before Christmas and skipped on the spritzing process. I used gold rum as the recipe suggested, but I read online that you can use sherry or any other wine of your choice too. Again, if you do not want to use alcohol, feel free to substitute it with any fruit juice of your choice.
- Dry fruits: 3 cups (The recipe called for a little more with some variations but I adjusted the amount and the mix according to my preference)
- Raisins – 1 cup
- Mix of dried and chopped Blueberry, strawberry and cherries- 1 cup
- mixed dry fruit mix – 1/2 cup
- Prunes or dried plums, chopped into bite size pieces – 1/2 cup
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- Gold Rum – 1 cup. (substitute with fruit juice if required)
- Butter – 5 oz or 10 tbsp 1 1/4 stick
- Sugar – 1 cup
- Apple Juice – 1 cup. The recipe calls for unfiltered apple juice but I used apple cider instead.
- Cloves – 4 whole
- All spice – 6 whole berries
- Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp
- Ground ginger – 1 tsp
- All purpose flour – 1 3/4 cup
- Salt – 1/2 tsp
- Baking Soda – 1 tsp
- Baking powder – 1 tsp
- Eggs – 2
- Toasted and roughly chopped nuts – 1/4 to 1/2 cup. I used 1/4 cup pecans and 1/4 cup silvered almonds
- Brandy – for spritzing/spraying. Can use any fruit juice instead. I did not use it at all.
Method: You may want to check out Alton Brown’s recipe video here
- Put all the dry fruits in a pot along with the zest of lemon and orange. Add rum and soak it for 24 hours. This process is called maceration. The alcohol acts as a preservative and also enhances the flavor of the cake when it is stored. When in rush, microwave the mixture on high for 5 minutes, though the flavors might not be that intense.
- Dry grind the cloves and all spice berries.
- Place the macerated fruits along with the liquid in a nonreactive pot. Add butter, sugar, apple juice, ground spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, all spice. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously and then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool down completely. If the mixture is not cooled to room temperature, adding the flour might make it lumpy.
- At this stage you can also refrigerate the cooled mixture to a maximum of 2 days if you wish to bake the cake later. However, if refrigerating, let the mixture come back to room temperature again before proceeding.
- Preheat the oven to 325 F and prepare the baking pan. I used a Bundt pan and greased it with butter and lightly dusted with 1-2 tbsp of flour. Shake off the excess flour. You can also line the greased pan with parchment paper.
- Sift the dry ingredients – flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder into the mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon till everything is well incorporated.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and stir into the mixture till it is well incorporated.
- Add the chopped nuts and fold into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake it on the middle rack for 50-60 mins or till a wooden toothpick inserted in the cake come out clean. While baking place a tray half filled with water and place it on a rack underneath the cake. This ensures that the cake remains moist and does not have cracks on its surface.
- Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. At this stage if you want you can spray/spritz it with some brandy or some fruit juice; I skipped it as it was sufficiently moist.
- Let it cool for 10 minutes and then flip it onto a tray or the wire rack. Flipping it before letting it cool or letting it cool down too much (more than 10-15 mins.) might result in the cake to break.
- If you want to store it, wrap it in a foil and keep in an airtight container. Mine was used up within 2 days so I did not need to store it. If storing, check the cake every 2-3 days and if it is drying up you may want to spritz it with brandy or some fruit juice to keep it moist.
- As the recipe suggested, the flavors of the cake enhanced in the next 2 days so maybe next time I will make it a week ahead.
- Feel free to play around with the dry fruits/nuts. Use what you want or is easily available and also can reduce the amount to your taste.
- Just to remind once again – You can make this cake without alcohol if you want. Just substitute equal measure of any fruit juice of your choice.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all…!