Christmas time has always been very special. It was that time of the year when the weather would be absolutely delightful, there would be a sense festivity in the air and a promise of a picnic or two. For as long as I can remember, my parents used to get me a small Christmas tree - the size that would fit perfectly on my study table. School would be off for 4 weeks during this time so I had plenty of time to decorate. Resources then were sparse - but imagination would create limitless wonders. Matchboxes got covered in wrapping paper and tied with a bow to create gifts that went under the tree. Cotton balls became snow. Confetti cut out of silver and golden paper would add an extra sparkle. I would cut out silver stars and golden bell and paper chains in shape of Christmas trees. But of course the best part would be waking up on Christmas day to a sock full of little presents and the plum cake from Nahoum's which would be served for breakfast. (I did not have a stocking, so a single pair of sock would have to suffice). Each year my father would buy the plum cake from Nahoum's on his way back from office the night before Christmas. Each year I used to crave for a bite of that plum cake. But I have been away from home for too many Christmases. It has been almost 14 years that I have eaten it. Over the years I have forgotten the taste, but I will always have fond memories. My father retired in 2000 and after that he used to get fruit cake from Monginis as Nahoum's was a good 45 minutes bus ride away. I remember that it was never the same.
This year I made a brave attempt to make fruit cake at home. Joy of Baking guided me well. I had to make a few changes as I did not have all the exact ingredients. This was the result. It turned out to be absolutely delightful. Rich and fruity with a hint of alcohol.
- Flour - 2 Cups
- Almond Flour - 3/4 Cup
- Baking Powder - 1 tsp
- Salt - 1/4 tsp
- Light Brown Sugar - 1/2 Cup
- Dark Brown Sugar - 1/2 Cup
- Eggs- 3 large at room temperature
- Butter - 1 Cup/2 sticks, at room temperature
- Cashews - 1 Cup, chopped (You can use walnuts and/or pecans)
- Cranberries - 1/2 Cup, dried
- Currants - 1/2 Cup, dried
- Raisins - 3/4 Cup
- Glace Cherries - Green & Red, chopped - about 3/4 Cup
- Dates - 6, pitted and chopped about 1/2 Cup
- Assorted Dry Fruits - 1 1/2 Cup, chopped (The pack I used had apricots, plums, prunes, peaches and apples)
- Zest of an orange - big one
- Juice of an orange
- Zest of a lemon
- Spiced Rum (or Brandy) - For maceration and for brushing - about 2 Cups
In a shallow container mix the dry fruits, glace cherries, currants, raisins, cranberries dates and cashews. Pour about a cup and half of rum over it and macerate for at least 2 days. If you want, you can skip maceration and just nuke the mixture mixture in the microwave for a minute or two. I had soaked my fruit and nuts mixture for about 7 days and each day I would stir it at least twice a day!
Also, I made my own almond flour (with a cup of almonds). You can just blanch the almonds, peel and run in the mixer or coffee grinder to get a fine powder. Or, you can dry roast the almonds and you will a coarse powder when you grind it. It does not matter if you leave the peel on in this particular recipe.
Preheat the oven at 325 F with the rack in the middle. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars till nice and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one and beat well. Add the orange juice, orange zest and lemon zest. Then fold in the macerated dried fruits and nuts mixture - add whatever little liquid is left as well. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, salt and baking powder. Using a spatula incorporate these in the batter. Scrape the sides of the bowl and fold in carefully. It will need a bit of muscle power.
I had plans of gifting the fruit cakes to some friends and my friend Gen (she is an awesome cook & baker) suggested that I bake in muffin tins - makes it easier to giveaway. Following her advice I baked these for 30 minutes till these turned golden on the edges and the toothpick came clean when I poked the center of a cupcake. I used the rest of the batter to bake in a mini loaf pan and a 9x9 inch square pan. I baked at 325 F for 45 minutes and at 300 F for another hour. You can use a 8 inch spring form pan as suggested in the original recipe (then you bake for one hour at 325 F and 1.5 hrs at 300 F). Just make sure that you grease your pan with butter and then dust it with flour.
Once the cake has baked, let it rest for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Poke a few holes in the cake and brush with rum. Wrap in a plastic wrap and aluminium foil. Brush it with rum every 2 to 3 days till Christmas. This stays fresh for a few weeks.
This recipe is going to be a part of the ongoing event of Kolkata Food Bloggers
Adapted from here!