A few days ago, a journalist from a popular daily called to ask if I could help her with some information for a story on Christmas Cake, and a host of memories came flooding out. Of Radha kaku and her carefully put together recipe that we would get boxfuls of every Christmas, of gaudily packed plum cakes adorning the windows and entrances of every cake shop on town, of choir practice in the school’s chapel early in the cold winter mornings–out they came. And despite the fact that the scant winter of the city had barely come, I found myself feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
This is the cake I make every year. By the kilos. Loaves of it go to friends and family. The process, of course, starts shortly after the preceding Diwali, when I promptly chop up the copious amounts of nuts and dried fruit I get as gifts and douse them in alcohol. The box of soaking fruit sits in a large box at the back of my fridge for a whole year, enriching itself for the perfect cake. The longer you soak the fruit, the better your cake–I take that advice very seriously.
Yesterday, I taught this recipe at my Christmas Goodies Masterclass at the A Perfect Bite Cook Studio. Since the studio does not have a liquor license, we soaked the fruit in orange juice and nature-identical rum essence. The cake still turned out splendid. Participants took home cakes of their own and we ate a large community cake together, gathered around a large table in true Christmas spirit. I got home tired, dreaming of a hot foot soak; but with a big smile inside.
Make this cake this Christmas and send it to as many people as you possibly can–you;ll begin the next year with loads of blessings!
Christmas Fruit Cake recipe
Makes: One 1/2 kg. cake.
For the fruit mix:
- 1 cup dried fruit, chopped (raisins, sultanas, figs, cranberries, dates, prunes, glace cherries, etc.)
- ½ cup nuts, chopped (almonds, pistachios, cashewnuts)
- 1 tbsp. candied peel, chopped
- 1 tbsp. candied ginger, chopped
- 1 and ½ cups rum/brandy/Cointreau or other alcohol of choice
For the cake:
- 2 eggs
- 100 gms. butter
- 100 gms. flour
- 100 gms. soft brown muscavado sugar
- 1 big pinch cinnamon powder
- 1 big pinch nutmeg powder
- 1 big pinch dried ginger powder
- 1 small pinch powdered cloves
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- Icing sugar, to dust
- Soak the fruit several weeks or months in advance by simply mixing all the ingredients and storing them in an airtight box in the fridge. Mix the fruit every once in a while to make sure it is well soaked.
- To make the cake, sift the flour, baking powder, and powdered spices together in a large bowl. Add the soaked fruit to this and toss to coat the fruit with the flour.
- In a separate bowl or in a mixer/food processor, beat the butter until light. Then, add the sugar gradually and beat until well combined and pale.
- Now add the eggs, one at a time and the vanilla and whisk until fluffy. Tip this egg mixture into the dry mixture and fold to combine.
- Pour into a greased and lined 8 inch round baking tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees centigrade for about 45 minutes to an hour. When done, the cake will leave the sides of the pan, feel springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted will come out clean.
- Remove the cake from the tin and cool completely. If you have any of the soaking liquid left, prick little holes in the cake and pour the liquid through. This will enhance the moistness and flavor. Dust the cake with icing sugar when ready to serve.
- This cake stays well at room temperature for at least two weeks.