December 2022 - Recipe of the month - Christmas Cake
Recipe & Photograph by: Neethu Menon
INGREDIENTS FOR SOAKING THE FRUIT (TO BE DONE ATLEAST ONE DAY IN ADVANCE)
- 1 cup tutti frutti (candied lemon and orange peels)
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/3 cup nuts ( mix of almonds and cashew nuts)
- 1/3 cup dates, chopped
- 1/3 cup glace cherries, chopped
- 1 ½ -2 cups rum, or enough to soak all the fruits
INGREDIENTS FOR THE BATTER
- 1 ½ cups All-purpose flour/Maida (measure & sift)
- ¾ cup butter at room temperature ( 1 ½ sticks)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 3 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp wine
- 1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
INGREDIENTS FOR THE CARAMEL
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp water + ½ cup water
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SPICE POWDERS*
- 1 tsp Caraway seeds/cake jeera/Sahjeerakam/Shahjeera (measure and powder)
Chop all the fruits into small pieces and soak them in rum or a combination of rum and sweet wine, at least one day in advance. (Note: Soaking can be done days or weeks or months or even up to a year in advance, it will make the fruits more plump and hydrated. The fruits should be soaked thoroughly in alcohol. Also shake the jar once in a while.
Prepare Caramel by heating and melting sugar along with 1 tbsp water, until it turns dark brown. Keep swirling the pan but do not stir. When sugar is completely melted and bubbles start coming up and if it has reached the color you want, turnoff the stove and place the pan in your sink and pour ½ cup cold water to the caramel and let it come to room temperature (Note: Hot caramel can create serious burns, so make sure that you play safe and kids are not around while preparing it. Also while pouring cold water to the caramel, stand at a safe distance as it will splash in the beginning which may lead to serious burns. Caramel should be completely cold before adding it to the batter, else it will spoil the entire batch. You can prepare the caramel in advance and refrigerate it as well.)
Preheat the oven at 350F (180C). Prepare one 8-inch cake pan and a 6-inch pan bylining the bottoms with parchment paper, butter the paper and grease the sides and sprinkle lightly with flour.
Sift the flour and baking powder together.
In another small mixing bowl, add the egg whites and beat on medium speed until foamy, and the whites begin to look shiny and smooth and form soft peaks, when you stop the mixer and lift the whip. Note: It is important that the egg whites are beaten in a clean and dry bowl without any trace of grease/fat/water; otherwise, the whites will not expand to its full volume.
Mix egg yolks and vanilla extract and beat well for a minute, in low-medium speed.
Mix butter and sugar until they are creamy and combined well. Add the beaten mixture of egg yolks and vanilla to this butter and sugar mixture, followed by wine, spice powders and caramel (1/2 cup) and beat thoroughly till everything is creamy and combined. At this stage, add the flour in small quantities and scrape down the bowl once or twice. At the end, stop the hand mixer and using a rubber spatula, fold the thoroughly beaten egg whites very gently, (Do not beat) until no white streaks are visible.
Finally, drain the soaked fruits and keep half a cup of soaked fruits aside; add the rest of the fruits to the batter and gently fold them into the batter. Toss the ½ cup fruits, kept aside earlier, in 1 tbsp flour.
Pour the batter into prepared baking pans and just before smoothening the tops, add the fruits tossed in flour and then level the top with an offset spatula, making sure that the fruits are coated with batter as well. (Note: Tossing the fruits in flour is to make sure that they spread evenly in the cake and not crowd at the bottom of the cake. You will find this contradicting in my pictures as I forgot to toss them in flour :D But do not add more than the prescribed amount as too much makes the fruits harder.)
Bake for around 1 hour; baking time differs depending on the pan size and the oven and hence, towards the end, if a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean without any crumbles, it shows that cake is ready.
Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes and later invert them onto a wire rack and let it cool completely for about 45 minutes or until they reach the room temperature. DO NOT CUT the cake at this point. Resist your temptations and double wrap the cakes using clear plastic-wraps and leave it on the kitchen counter for 4 days. On the 5th day, you can cut the cake using a serrated knife and serve with sweet red wine. This cake can be saved in the refrigerator for several weeks.(Note: It is very important that the cake should rest for 5 days for all the flavor and sweetness to set in. If you cut any day before that, you will find that the texture is not right and not all that sweet and tasty.)