Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to run in a one-horse open sleigh
Jingle bells, jingle bells, fingle all the way
Oh, what fun on Jah’s cool run in a one-horse open sleigh
December is my favourite month. It’s my birthday month. So naturally I am already in a festive and cheerful mood and probably will be in that ecstatic state of mind through out the month, unless an apocalypse happened. Plus, it’s my parent’s anniversary month too. It’s the global holiday season. Above all its a baking season too. And its Christmas time. And its winter too, my favourite season. In short, December to me is the celebration time.
Nothing lifts the spirits as much as a small bite into this warm and hearty Christmas fruit cake, flavoured with spices, infused with spirits. With baking galore coming straight out of the kitchen, the hedonistic warmth wafting through out the house, jingle of the bells in the background, carefully and lovingly packing gifts for the loved ones, Christmas tree and decorations around the house, the air is infused with festivity and cheerfulness.
Every year I bake a Christmas fruit cake for which the preparations runs through months, and everyone awaits for the day, the day when months of labour will finally become fruitful. I bake fruit cakes not just for celebration, but also at other times too. A lighter version of the rich Christmas fruit cake, which serves as a good accompaniment with evening tea. Unlike many people, we love fruit cake in our home.
This year, I had tried a different version of fruit cakes. Fruit cakes are kind of global dessert, everyone bakes it during Christmas and at the same time every country, every region has their own version of making it. Like in India, rum soaked plum cake from Kerala is very popular. Though the name plum cake is kind of misnomer, as the cake does not contain any plums. But none the less, throughout in India this is extremely popular. I think, originally the term used was plump cake, as the cake discerningly become plump up with moistness oozing out from it, loaded with candied fruits, peels and rum. With time, “plump”distorted to become “plum” cake.
But this year I have decided to stay away from the boozy cakes. Because I wanted my 1.5 yr old baby to have a taste of this super moist and delightful fruit cake. So this year I try to bake a different version of fruit cake without any rum, brandy, whiskey or sherry. Of all these, I love soaking my fruit cakes in sherry.
Baking an alcohol free cake is relatively simpler and easy but I do not just want to bake a syrup soaked or fruit juice soaked cake. I was also looking for a different approach to bake a fruit cake when I had chanced upon this easy fruit cake recipe by JoyOfBaking (my baking alma mater).
This recipe is an old fashioned one. A traditional fruit cake, steeped in cold tea that belongs to Irish people who usually bake this on St.Patricks day and a more richer version with Irish whiskey on Christmas. Boiled fruit cake is definitely for those who don’t want to feed themselves a boozy cake, or for those absentminded peeps who forgot to soak the fruits for the cake or for busy moms who don’t have much time to go through the ordeal of soaking the candied fruits and peels in spirits. This is also for those who usually get inspired at the last moment.
Boiled fruit cakes are a different genre than their rum soaked counterparts. Here the raisins, sultanas and dried grapes and berries and candied peels are usually simmered in fruit juice, butter and sugar on low heat for sometime. The fruit cake draws its moisture by this process of simmering it in concoction of butter – sugar and fruit juice.
Inspired from this ridiculously simple yet delicious fruit cake recipe, I tweaked the recipe at few places and the results were as charming as the traditional ones. First I ditch the all purpose flour and substitute it with whole wheat or whole meal flour. In India, we don’t have this option of using unbleached flour. Moreover this type of fruit cake doesn’t rise well and need not be a sponge, so substituting with whole wheat flour perfectly suits the bill.
Second to increase the flavour quotient, I had baked this fruit cake with homemade pomegranate molasses that had been maturing in my cupboard for a month. Traditionally Irish fruit cakes are steeped in cold tea, but to me tea would be too lighter for the rich medley of fruits and nuts. Molasses adds beautiful richer and deeper color to the fruit cake plus the fruit molasses brings out their distinctive touch.
This version of fruit cake looks very much like a Dundee cake, only difference is that no almond meal /flour is used here. Even in dried fruits, raisins, sultanas are preferred but I have used a mix of raisins, sultanas, dried apple, dried pineapple, dried strawberries , dried figs (I love figs in cakes), dried prunes and dates. Prunes and dates makes the cake slightly sticky, if you want a drier one, then you can opt out the dates and prunes.
To off set the texture of fruit cakes, nuts are essential. My choice would always be finely sliced blanched almonds. But you can use pistachios too. Finally don’t forget to add candied ginger. They take this fruit cake to a new level.
- Whole wheat flour : 1 cup
- Salt : ¼ tsp
- Baking Soda : ½ tsp
- Baking Powder : 1 tsp
- Brown Sugar / demerara / muscovado : ½ cup
- Eggs : 3 (as eggs here are small in size)
- Pomegranate Molasses (homemade) : 60 ml
- Spices (mix of Cinnamon powder , nutmeg powder, clove powder, ground ginger or Pumpkin Pie Spice) : 2 tsp +
- Butter : ¼ cup or 60 gm (softened at room temperature)
- Vanilla extract : 1 tsp
- Boiling water
- Dates (chopped into small pieces) : 6 piece
- Dried Prunes (chopped into small pieces) : 6 pieces
- Blanched almonds ( cut into slivers) : a handful (1/2 cup) + whole almonds for decoration
- Dried fruit mix (Dried apples, pineapples, figs, raisins, sultanas, papaya, strawberries, candied orange peel ) : 150 gm
- Crystallized or candied ginger : around 10 pieces
- Confectioner sugar for dusting the cake
- Before starting out or the baking , let the butter and eggs come at room temperature naturally by placing them on the counter top of your kitchen.
- In a deep bottom vessel, bring brown sugar, butter, pomegranate molasses, spices and water to a rapid boil. Add all the dried fruit mix except dates, prunes and almonds.
- Lower the heat and let it simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes.
- Switch off the heat, leave the mixture in the pan and let it cool sufficiently till most of the liquid get absorbed by the fruit mix.
- When ready to use, add the lightly beaten eggs and vanilla to it.
- Followed by sifted flour mix ( sift the flour in another bowl with salt, baking powder, baking soda).
- Mix well and thoroughly till you get a semi solid mass. The batter will look like dough but with enough mobility.
- Pour in the batter into the prepared loaf pan 9*5*3 in (collar and line the loaf pan with parchment paper) .
- Level it up with the help of spatula.
- Decorate it with the blanched whole almonds.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 160 C for 50 minute or until the skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Let the cake cools down to room temperature in the pan itself.
- Once it is completely cooled down, poke several holes with the fine needle or skewer and infuse it with freshly squeezed orange juice (no sugar) .
- Wrapped the cake well with a clean kitchen towel (cloth) and leave it in dark corner on the counter for few hours.
- Once the cake is cut into slices, store it in an airtight container.
This cake will taste good if you let it matured for three days
If you are using whole wheat flour, then I will suggest to sift the flour alone at least three times. This will make the cake airy and not too dense as expected from the whole wheat flour.
Verdict – I love this version of boiled fruit cakes and probably will be making this often. I also love the fact that this cake can be eaten right away, though it gets some benefits by storing it for a day. The flavour gets matured beautifully. Pomegranate molasses adds such a deep color, nice flavour and taste to the cake. The cake was evenly baked throughout and was super moist. And probably will be baking it next time with more almonds. I just love that crunch and nutty part it offers to the cake.