Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Fruit Cake - Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

Studded with rubies - Specks of red soaked fruit and nuts

Rich, cinnamony, moist, bursting with boozy fruits and smelling of rum and spice...but not too that you can eat one piece after the other...I know my cake turned out lighter in colour than the classic dark brown but, I burnt three batches of caramel in order to get a dark caramel syrup and then I told myself whats in the colour...that which tastes as good as this cake...with any other colour would taste the same (Thank you.. Shakespeare).

Honestly, I wasn't very sure whether I should call this the Christmas rum cake or Christmas fruit cake..because there is as much rum as there is fruit.. Don't fret.. I cant eat cakes laden with rum either.. So I decided I shall use just as much as my sane self can withstand.

So I have never really baked a Christmas fruit cake before and I decided if I must I should follow traditions. And so the soaking of fruits happened a month or so ago. Ideally the fruits are soaked for a longer period of time, though I don't see how that might have altered the taste of my cake.. ( the cake turned out awesome..). So my vain self went shopping for the ingredients and I say vain because vanity is everything to do with what others think of me...which means that I went about the whole exercise with as much pompousness as I could muster...telling the whole world about it...even the uninterested shopkeeper...just made me feel like a pro who does this every year. So here is my list of fruits for the traditional soaking ( Brit, Austrian, French, German, American...all rolled into one )

100 gms Dark/Golden Raisins
100 gms Prunes
100 gms Candied Ginger
100 gms Mixed Peel
100 gms Dried Figs
100 gms Walnuts
100 gms Cashew
100 gms Almonds
1 Ltr of Dark Rum/Brandy/Red Wine/Whiskey (Use any one or a combination)
4 tbsp of mixed spice powder ( or make your own by dry roasting cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and grinding them into a fine powder. Alternatively, you can tie these whole spices in a piece of linen and drop it in with your fruits.

Chop the nuts and fruits coarsely, add the spices and pour the rum over so that they are covered with it. Stir   so that everything is incorporated and within a couple of hours you will have to pour some more rum again. The fruits are going to soak it all up . Stir every 2-3 days and add more rum if required. So when I checked after a couple of days it still needed more liquid and since I had a bottle of red wine, I used that.. So in whole I used almost 1 Ltr of liquid (750 ml rum and 250 ml wine put together). If you are using any wine for soaking be sure to stir every two days because the wine might come on top and might ferment. Keep it airtight.

So all this was a month ago. Three days ago it was time to turn these into the perfect Christmas Fruit Cake. So I started with the caramel.. It is going to give your cake a deep dark colour. The darker you get without burning it, the better. My earlier experiments in caramel making haven't been too encouraging, and this time  was no different.. got it right the fourth time and had loads dark and bitter caramel .. not to mention the pans to scrub and clean. 

You can use brown sugar instead of white, but brown sugar is going to make the cake stickier and I personally do not like the texture of the cake with brown sugar... they are restricted to cookies and puddings in my kitchen. Also, brown sugar burns faster than white, so be careful.

Ingredients for the caramel:

2 cups white sugar (16 fl. oz)
1 cup of water ( 8 fl.oz)


Take the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan, and bring it up to a medium heat. Be patient. Do not stir. Around 4 mins later the sugar around the edges will start melting and changing colour. Be Patient. Do not be tempted to stir with a spoon. If at all, give the pan a swirl. Sugar will melt further. Again, do not be tempted to stir with a spoon, because that will crystallize the sugar and you will have lumps in your caramel. It takes around 8 mins or so for all the sugar the melt and change colour. 

After three burnt batches patience was thrown out of the window and I started to stir with a spoon and there I had crystallized sugar, but never mind. all you have to do is strain it out of your caramel... So if you have the strong urge to stir with a spoon, go ahead ...and professionals will tell you that a little water will dissolve the crystals. don't bother..just strain it..its simpler. 

Once the sugar melts, switch off the gas stove, wear kitchen gloves and pour the water into the pan and quickly move away. Once the splattering stops stir the water into the caramel. leave it to cool and it will thickens as it cools. If you do have lumps in the caramel, strain it while its still warm, because the thicker it gets the more difficult it is for it to come out of a strainer.

And so after all that trouble with the sugar, I did manage to make 1.5 cups (12 fl.oz) of golden coloured caramel and here is how it looked

So we have the fruits soaking, the caramel ready and now its time to make the batter.


250 Gms butter, melted and at room temperature
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups whole wheat flour (16 fl.oz)
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar, powdered
2 tbsp of cinnamon powder
1 tsp of nutmeg powder
1 tsp powdered cloves
1 tbsp dry ginger powder
1/2 cup of orange marmalade (4 fl.oz) ( purely optional, but extremely desirable)
3 cups of soaked fruits without the rum (24 fl.oz)
1 cup of rum from the soaking fruits

Here are few of my observations :

  • I used whole wheat flour here but you can substitute with the same amount of maida/cake flour. Some might argue as to why make this dense cake denser by using whole wheat flour, but thats exactly my point...the cake is already dense so using a lighter flour is not going to change its texture considerably, so I will stick my good pal whole wheat.
  • I did not stick to the traditional creaming method for the batter because we are not aiming at a lighter cake. Dense is in vogue !!
  • Now since I live in tropical weather, the cake has to be finally stashed away in the fridge, otherwise it might get spoiled, so I was contemplating replacing butter with oil, so that the cake will be moist and soft even if it comes out of the fridge, but again I would have to thaw it to maximize the taste, so I decided to use butter so I can still have the buttery flavour in the cake.
  • Orange marmalade is an optional ingredient, but I baked one cake with it and another without it.. and there was a difference... the slight hint of orange. Yeps, I baked two cakes...One was for gifting away and the other is still resting in my cake box and getting better with each passing day. Its Christmas after all and the season for giving.


1. Preheat the oven to 200 degree Celsius.  Grease and line a 20 cm x 20 cm cake pan with baking sheet.

2. Melt the butter and let it cool to room temperature.

3. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Set aside.

4. Use a hand blender and beat the melted butter and the powdered sugar. Add the eggs ( all at once or one at a time... its your choosing). and beat well till light and frothy. Add the caramel, orange marmalade, the powdered spices and beat well. Add the rum from the soaked fruits and beat well till all the wet ingredients are well combined.

5. Ad the dry and sifted ingredients slowly and beat just until incorporated.

6. Fold in the soaked fruits. You might want to dredge the fruits in flour to prevent sinking at the bottom, but in the first cake I did that and the second time around I did not and it made no difference at all. 

7. Pour the batter into the cake batter and bake for 10 mins at 180 degree Celsius and then for 35 min at 160 degree Celsius.

8. If you feel the crust is getting darker, take the pan out carefully and cover with aluminium foil and put the pan back into the oven immediately and bake again.

9. The cake is done when a tooth pick inserted at the center comes out clean. Take the cake out and leave to cool completely. The cake will not dome or sink at the center so even of you don't need a bundt pan for the cake.

10. Ideally, all Christmas fruit cakes are brushed with the left over rum from the soaked fruits. Holes are poked over the cake with a skewer and rum is brushed or poured over the cake for it to absorb. Its called feeding the cake. But this is one step I skipped. The cakes are baked 10-15 days in advance and rum is poured 4-5 times into the cake till Christmas. Or a cheese cloth is soaked in the rum and the cake is wrapped in it.. And on Christmas, the cake is served with almond paste or marzipan or just like that.

So Merry Christmas and Happy Baking !!!

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