Christmas Plum Cake
Hope you all had merry jolly Christmas this year and this season I had tried this beautiful gluten free Christmas plum cake. Delicious, moist and it was so tasty that you cannot stop at just one slice. Yes, it was that good. And one of the best Christmas plum cake that I had baked so far.
What was in it that sets it apart from the rest of it’s clan of fruit cakes ? The fabulous combination of different types of flours. Over the last few years, I kept on experimenting cakes, brownies and breads with different kinds of flours. And every time I had found that the alternate flours lends a beautiful taste, flavour and texture to the baked goods.
This Christmas, I thought why not trying out something special with regular fruit cake recipe. And here it is, the fabulous, the gorgeous and uber delicious gluten free Christmas plum cake. And this was the centerpiece of my Christmas table, this year.
Gluten Free Christmas Plum Cake
I had few packets of gluten free flour mix, that was sent to me by various brands for recipe developing and collaboration work. I had tried making brownies and banana bread with them and they turned out too delicious. Most importantly when you bake often, it becomes very important to bake something healthy and nutritious for your family. Tons of bleached flour (maida in India) is something that I do not want to include regularly in my home baked goodies.
Oat flour is the one that is gluten free, healthy and nutritious too. No doubt it has become a very popular flour in gluten free baking. Additionally, oat flour lends a light and fluffy texture to the cakes too. I prefer to make my own oat flour at home by roasting the rolled oats and then powdered them in my grinder.
Almond flour is next popular flour that is variously used in all kinds of baked foods like cakes, brownies, pies, tarts and cookies. Rich in protein content , almond flour adds a mild sweetness to the cakes. Its high fat content helps to retain the moisture in the cake, thus making your cakes soft and moist.
Apart from this two flour, I have used a healthy mix of gluten flour that contains sorghum, finger millet, peanut, flax seeds, amaranth, soybean and cornmeal.
When you are using the various combination of flour, it is also important to find a good ratio of different flour mixes that will helps to make a good cake. So, here in this recipe of plum cake, I have used total 180gram of flour. Out of which almond flour is 30gram, oat flour is 100 gram and other gluten free flour mix is 80 gram.
Before trying out this ratio to make a plum cake, I had tried substituting the gluten free flour mix with regular whole wheat flour. The result was equally good but the cake was little on the denser side.
Whole wheat flour also works good in fruit cakes. You can check this – Irish Style Whole Wheat Christmas Fruit Cake. If you are gluten tolerant and want to try this recipe without gluten free flour mix, you can substitute that flour with maximum 50gram of whole wheat flour.
Why It Is Called Plum Cake?
Christmas fruit cakes had very interesting story and history behind it. From what it started out in medieval England as a simple porridge made with oats, dried fruits and honey. And in subsequent centuries flour, butter and eggs were added to make Christmas pudding like cake. With the advent of colonization, fruit cake traveled out of England to almost every part of the world as an essential Christmas hamper, filled with rum, brandy or wine to increase the shelf life.
Now every region of the world has its own variation of Christmas fruit cake seeped in tradition and cultural ethnicity.
In India we have our very own version of this in form of Kerala plum cake, Calcutta Christmas fruit cake to name few.
But why plum cake?
When not a single piece of plums are added in this cake. There are two views regarding this. One is that in earlier times, raisins and currants were also known as plums in England, thus reflecting the name “plum cake” as it is stuffed primarily with raisins and currants of all kinds.
Secondly, the dried fruits which is primarily soaked in rum or orange juices, become plumped up after drinking all the juices or alcohol. Thus the term could be a misnomer ” from plumped up cake to plum cake”.
How To Soak Dried Fruits For Plum Cake
Most of the preparations for making plum cakes or fruit cakes started quite early. Some started around July and some by late October. There are many who soak the dried fruits in rum for one year or even more than that.
For rum based plum cakes
you can soak the dried fruits in a clear glass jar for one month. Approximately after 2 weeks you will notice that the dried fruits has become plumped up little. You can feed more alcohol to your fruit mix till your baking day. And remember to shake the jar once in a while.
I personally prefer sweet sherry to soak my dried fruits if I am making plum cake with alcohol. Too much rum, sometimes makes the plum cake taste bitter. One more important point – when you are using rum or any alcoholic beverages in your plum cake, make sure you use the best one.
You might also like Rich Christmas Fruit Cake With Rum / Sherry
For orange juice based plum cake
you can start your preparation as late by 4-5 days before Christmas. I prefer to boil the dried fruits first in plain water till they are re hydrated properly. Then I add orange juice, cook it for 5 more minute till the liquid is dried up completely. Upon cooling, I bottle up the dried fruits and add more orange juice and keep it in the fridge for the flavours to mature.
Best Dried Fruits For Plum Cake
Golden raisins / sultanas, currants, black raisins are traditionally added to any Christmas fruit cake. And now a days with plenty of dried fruits to choose from, I also add cranberries, dried apricots, dried figs, dehydrated apple, mangoes, kiwis and dates. For a cake that weighs around 1 kilogram, I would suggest to go with 250 gram of dried fruits and 100 gram of assorted nuts mostly almonds, walnuts, cashews.
How To Flavour Your Christmas Plum Cake?
Dried fruits and orange juice or rum lends a distinct flavour to the Christmas fruit cake.
Orange zest and candied orange rind (do not add fresh orange rind) are another important ingredient that not only rounded up the sweetness of the cake. But it also adds a beautiful zingy zesty citrus flavour to the cake.
Molasses is another important ingredient. It is nothing but dark sugar syrup , a byproduct obtained while processing the un refined sugar. I have hardly come across any Christmas fruit cake which does not use molasses in one form or another.
However, there are fruit molasses too available in the market now a days. I have tried pomegranate molasses before, and loved it. In this recipe I have used date molasses and I totally loved the richness and moisture it imparts to the plum cake. The extra dark color of the cake is because of date molasses and dark brown sugar.
Christmas plum cake is variously flavoured with spice mix of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg. Some recipe also calls for dry ginger powder , caraway seed powder and cardamom powder too.
Tips For Making A Good Perfect Plum Cake?
Creaming The Butter
Any recipe of plum cake starts with creaming the butter. I personally do not prefer using oil in my plum cake. Creaming of butter is most important step and it makes the plum cake light. Not dense and fudge like. And if you get it correct, rest assured your cake would turn out good. For this you will need softened butter and eggs at room temperature.
Using a electric hand beater, first whip the butter properly. Then add the sugar and whip it up to light and fluffy. This should take 5-8 minutes, but not more than that. Add the eggs one at a time and beat lightly.
If the mixture curdles, then do not add more eggs into it. Cool it down the mixture by placing the bowl over a bowl filled with ice cubes.
To prevent this from happening, cool down the butter sugar mixture little by placing it in the fridge for 2-3 minute before adding the eggs into it.
Adding The Dried Fruit Mix
Soaking the dry fruits in any liquid is very important because the fruit mix will rehydrate properly . And it would not draws the moisture out of the cake while baking. Thus making the cake soft and moist.
Many people often complains about their dried fruit mix sink to the bottom of the cake and get burned. To prevent this from happening, dredge (dust / mix) the soaked dried fruit and nut mix quite well in the flour. Flour will hold the dried fruit and will prevent it from sinking to the bottom.
Many also like to decorate the cake tops with blanched almonds arranged neatly in circles.
While doing this keep two things in mind. First, the batter of the cake should be very much dough like. Then only you can confidently arrange the almonds on top before baking.
But fruit cake/ plum cake batter varies as per recipes.
If the batter is wet even with little mobility the almonds will sink while baking. To prevent this from happening, roast the almonds and add this on top of cake in last 5 minute of baking process. Many also quickly brush the cake with glaze and then put the almonds or nut on top and bake 5 minute extra.
Fruit cakes need to be baked at really low temperature. Do not bake this cake at high temperature. You might end up with a sunken cake, or an unevenly baked cake. The preferable temperature for plum cakes / fruit cakes range from 150 C – 160 C. It takes around 90-120 minute to get the cake baked properly. Mine took 90 minute.
I prefer to use a high sided baking pan (with sides 2 to 2.5 inch high) to bake plum cakes. A tall plum cake really looks good and gorgeous. It is advisable to fill the pan 2/3 rd with the batter as the plum cake does not rise too much like sponge cakes.
Secondly as the plum cakes bake slow and long, lining the pan from all sides is very important with parchment paper. Else your whole effort to bake a beautiful plum cake might get ruined. This will also prevent the outside from over cooking while the center is still raw.
Also do not place the baking pan directly on the oven rack. Instead, place the baking pan over layers of newspaper, placed on baking tray. This will cushion the direct heat from the bottom, ensuring that the cake would not get burned or over baked .
Christmas Plum Cake Kerala Style
For The Cake Batter
- 30 gm Almond Flour
- 100 gm Oat Flour
- 50 gm Gluten free flour mix
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- ¼ tsp Baking Soda
- 113 gm Butter, salted
- 100 gm Dark brown sugar, fine granulated
- 3 Eggs (room temperature)
- 60 ml Molasses ( I have used date molasses)
- 2-3 tbsp Spice Mix ( powdered cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves)
- 1 tsp Orange extract (optional)
Dry Fruit And Nut Mix
- 250 gm Dry fruits (see notes)
- 100 gm Nut mix (see notes)
- 30 gm Candied orange rind and ginger
- Orange Juice as required
Preparing The Dry Fruits
- Collect the dry fruits in a bowl and chop it to medium size pieces, if some are too big. Chop the figs, dried apricots and dates accordingly.Toast the nuts lightly and chop them into desired size. Keep aside in a bottle, until required.
- In a pan bring some water to boil. Add the dried fruits (not nuts) and let it simmer on low heat till dry fruits are re hydrated little bit.Add 1/2 cup orange juice in the pan and warm it. Simmer on low heat till most of the liquid dries out.
- Cool down the dry fruit mixture and put it in a glass jar. Add more orange juice. Bottle it up and store it in the fridge until required.
Preparing The Baking Pan
- Grease the pan very well with oil / butter. Cut the parchment paper accordingly and line the pan from all sides. Base and sides (high collar is preferable) should be well covered with the parchment paper.
- Lightly grease the parchment paper too and keep aside the pan.
- Take a baking tray. Place 2-3 layers of newspaper over it. Place the baking pan on it. This is the way baking pan would go inside the oven.
Preparing The Ingredients On The Day Of Baking
- Take out the butter from the fridge and keep it on the counter for 1 hour or so, until it is softened. Press the butter with your finger, it should leave an indent on the butter but should not be too warm.
- Bring the eggs too at room temperature.
- Take out the bottled dried fruit mixture and drain out all the liquid, if there is any. Reserve the liquid for further use in the cake.
- Dredge / dust the dry fruit mixture with 2-3 tablespoon of flour and keep aside.
Steps For Making The Plum Cake / Fruit Cake
- Pre heat the oven at 160 C for 20 minute.
- In a bowl, place the butter. Whip it till light and pale with an electric hand blender.Add sugar in batches (2-3 batch) and cream the butter-sugar mixture till light and fluffy. This should not take more than 5-8 minutes.When you scoop out the mixture with the spatula, it should feel very light.
- Rest the butter-sugar mixture for 5 minute and then proceed to add eggs. It is recommended to whip the egg separately before adding it to the butter sugar mixture.Add the eggs in batches and whip it gently till soft peaks forms.
- Add the molasses, orange extract (if using) and fold it very well with the help of a spatula.
- In another bowl, sift the flour with baking powder, baking soda.Add spices and mix it well.
- Add the orange zest, candied orange rind, candied ginger (chop it into small pieces) and mixed nut in to the bowl of dry fruits. Mix everything well.
- Now start adding flour and dry fruit mixture alternately in batches into the wet ingredient bowl.Fold it lightly and gently with the help of a spatula.
- Checking the batterIf the batter is too thick like dough kind and difficult to fold it with a spatula, then add little more orange juice / reserve liquid if you have any.If the batter is wet, dough like but enough mobility (not pouring type) then it is ready to go into the oven.If batter is too wet with pouring consistency, then you might need to add little more flour. Try to add 1-2 tablespoon flour at a time and check the batter.This is because every flour behaves differently and absorption power is different. So adjust the flour accordingly.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.Bake it for around 90 minute till the skewer inserted comes out clean from all sides (check sides and center).If requires, increase the baking time little more accordingly.
- Do not open the oven before 1 hour. Check the cake only after it crossed the 1 hour time. Mine took 90 minute to bake it evenly.
- Once done, take out the plum cake from the oven. Cool the plum cake in the pan for 20 minutes.Run a spatula around the edges to loosen the cake from the sides.Lift the cake very gently out of the pan. I remove the side lining papers from the cake, but keep the base lining intact. It helps to move the cake easily.
- Store the cake as mentioned in the post section until ready to use.
Can I Make An Eggless Plum Cake ?
Off course you can. In a regular plum cake recipe, eggs can be easily substituted with applesauce or yogurt. But this recipe will be little tricky to handle as this calls for gluten free flour. Eggs are not just acts a binder here, eggs also acts an emulsifier too. Eggs in fact gives a good rise to the plum cake.
However, having said that, you can try combination of yogurt and vinegar to get the desired result. I have not tried it, this is mere a suggestion only.
How To Store Plum Cake ?
Once the cake is cooled down properly, it is then covered tightly with a cheesecloth / soft cotton cloth soaked in rum / orange juice. A foil or paper cover is then added on top of it.
I simply wrap the plum cake in cling wrap tightly. And then covered with a soft cotton cloth and leave it on the counter at room temperature. This way the cake stay fresh up to 5 days. It usually get over by that time.