16 November 2006

Thank you.. with a Rich fruit-cake

While browsing through assorted blogs, I came across Meeta's Monthly Mingle, themed Give Thanks. I've just spent a good 2 weeks baking one of my favourite dishes, a rich fruit cake, and somehow it seemed just the right thing to contribute to such a lovely theme.

First things first. The thanksgiving!

Thanks are due all over the board. To my parents and sister for always being there for me, to my husband for putting up with ante-natal temper tantrums and emotional outbursts, and to my lovely 3 year old daughter (who for obvious reasons will not be allowed to even sample my culinary genius this time) for just being the sweetheart that she is!

To Kartik, Sangeeta, Soumya and Mythily for years of unconditional friendship and support. To Hemu and Axe who patiently listen to hours of my cribbing about something or the other, to my dearest friend Pons who's going to be a Dad sometime next year, to Sriram for helping me with photography tips n tricks (so the pics look more like food and less like manhole covers or bacteria cultures). And "Thanks" too, to other food bloggers who've dropped by and read my incessant ramblings!

So why did I pick this recipe?? Because it's so perfect, so what if a little off season, as a 'Thank You'. It never fails to warm me, like a sincere 'Thank You'...

Lots of assorted dry fruits, candied fruit and peel, soaked for as long as three weeks in brandy, baked for a long time and then allowed to ripen..... the end result, this simply fantastic cake! From the very first time I tried some, and then tried baking some, this has always been a bit of a challenge. I've spent ages trying to get it just right. I started with the original recipe, took some tips and hints from assorted sources, combined them all, and finally ended up with this gem.

The cake has three major steps. First is the soaking, then the baking and finally the aging! Trust me folks, it's worth every bit of hassle, and is definitely a keeper. The cake itself has a wonderfully long shelf life thanks to all the alcohol that goes into it!

And finally, Thank You Joan aunty, for sharing your family's special christmas cake recipe, inspiring me to higher standards in baking all those years ago and all your valuable baking tips and inputs.

Rich fruit cake

Fruits to soak

600 grams of assorted mixed fruits, candied fruit, candied peel

100 gms golden raisins
100 gms currants
100 gms dried plums (or cherries)
100 gms candied fruit
100 gms candied peel
100 gms dry seedless dates (chopped fine)
1 cup large sooji (rava)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
1 tsp allspice
500 ml brandy

Lightly dry-roast the sooji and cool to room temperature.
Toss assorted fruits, sugar and spices to mix well.
Keep aside 1/4 cup of mixed fruit.
Toss remaining fruit with sooji.
Put in a bottle with a tight fitting lid.
Pour brandy over fruit till just covered, and top with remaining 1/4 cup fruit.
Keep aside for at least 3 days.

I let my fruits soak for nearly 2 weeks before baking them. If you live in warm climate, I suggest placing the fruit mix in the fridge, and to soak for a maximum of 3 days.
Rum, or Marsala wine are a fantastic substitute for brandy. Dark rum gives it a lovely dark colour.

The cake mix

250 gms unsalted butter (at room temperature)
250 gms brown sugar
250 gms cake flour
2 tbsp baking powder
5 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp almond essence (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
Line 4 loaf pans (3"x3"x8") with greaseproof paper.
Sift cake flour with salt and baking powder. Keep aside.
Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Beat eggs till frothy.
Add beaten eggs, little at a time, to the butter mix and blend well.
Add the essences and mix well.
Add flour, 4-5 tbsp at a time and mix well after each addition.
Before the final addition of flour, add the fruit mix.
Add the last batch of flour and stir gently till well combined.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in the bottom rack of oven for about 55 minutes.
If the top layer of the cake seems to be firm, loosely cover pans with foil and continue to bake till tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool in pans overnight.

This cake needs to be baked dryer than normal pound cakes. So give it 10-15 minutes more than you nromally would. Do remember to cover with foil so that the upper crust does not char/burn.
If you don't have cake flour, plain or self-raising flour work fine too. If using self-raising flour, just skip the baking powder.

The Ripening

1 cup Brandy/Rum/marsala (optional)

Cool cakes are completely.

If you wish to flavour it further:
Prick holes into cake over regular intervals. Sprinkle liquor of choice over cake.

Double wrap each cake in 2 layers of aluminium foil.
Wrap once more with cling film, and keep in a cool, dry place away from light.
Let cake stand for at least a week before serving.
Store foil and plastic wrapped in airtight containers for upto 2 months.

If you wish to add more liquor to the cake after the baking, be advised that it can be a little intoxicating, and not at all suited to little kids.
I've had people swear that this cake lasts for as long as 6 months, but I've never managed to keep any that long. All gets eaten as soon as I unwrap the first packet after ripening!

The end result is normally darker than the slices shown above, but yours truly could not wait to cut and try it out before ripening it. Also, I haven't seasoned it after baking. That would give it a richer colour.

So anyone game to join me for a nice afternoon tea?? I promise to serve this cake with a pot of nice hot tea. Just perfect for the thoroughly cold weather that we're having right now!


Meeta said...

Perfect and looks great. Just right for this time of the year.

Lakshmi Krishnan said...

The cake looks so rich and I love the red color. Makes me want to grab it from the pictures.

Jayashree said...

The cake looks lovely...

nalini said...

I have never baked but your picture is so tempting that I want to now!

Foodie's Hope said...

Very colorful, very Christmassy:))

Have a great weekend,Vidya!

aspiring annapoorna said...

Thanks so much for the detailed recipe....what kind of brandy did you use? Is there a baking brandy? or does one go all out with the good stuff...cognac? I've always wanted to know how a nice fruit cake comes together...and never found a good enough recipe for it, so your post is truly delightful! I havent been blogging of late, but I do keep snooping around blogs, and delighting in all that I find....

Vidya said...

Thanks Jayashree, Lakshmi, Meeta, Asha...
Nalini, this does tend to look like lots of work, but worth every minute of it.
Annapoorna, Cognac, any brandy, dark rum, anything works... I even tried with sherry, Marsala wine... so far all these have worked just fine, making for subtle variations in flavor. do try it. the longer you let the fruits and sooji soak, the better the end result

Axe said...

And to think you gave me the Spanish Inquisition treatment (No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!) over a senti post on my blog :p

Vani said...

Hey, that looks good! I wanted to leave the below comment on your other blog but the word verification wasn;t working for some reason. So here is what I wrote..

"So, how DID the hair come out? I'm curious... :)

And good luck with the baby. Deciding on a name was driving my hubby & I crazy! We couldn't agree on ANY single name. We decided the day before the delivery. It helped that we knew the star of the baby and therefore the alphabet for the name to start with. We don't really believe in that but it was a way to finalize on the name."

Vidya said...

Hey Vani
The haircut turned ok... took about 20 mins, but there was 40 mins of trying to communicate what i wanted, and then i said 'whatever, just do what u want, and get it done with'.. end result's fairly decent, and not too bad!
we're still not decided on the subject of names... we agree to disagree on what the other one likes. and since i told doc i DONT want to know sex of the baby, we're cribbing over 2 sets!!! we need to decide fast, but inspiration shd strike .... sometime!

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