It’s Christmas (X’mas) season and one of the traditions along with singing Christmas carol, putting up the Christmas tree, lighting up the house, baking gingerbread cookies or making gingerbread houses….. is baking the Christmas cake/fruit cake. …(more about the cake below).
My fondest memory of X’mas is decorating the tree and house with ornaments and lights. My mom would bake atleast 3-4 huge X’mas cakes… one or two for us and guests that visit on X’mas day, one that she divides among the non-christian neighbour friends and then one to give to the church – Women who were good at baking were asked to get cakes, which were cut into slices and distributed to all the Church attendees when they exited the church after the midnight X’mas mass (even today cake is given). As kids, we would keep going in and out of the church so that we could try different versions of cake….and every year, me and my brothers would conclude that my mother’s cake was the best. Soft, moist, right amount of fruits….amazing!!!
Come November, all the Christian women especially at churches, are talking about X’mas cakes – how many are they going to bake, when will they soak the fruits, and of course exchange of recipes is a must!!
This is the 1st time I’m going to bake a X’mas cake and I hope it turns half as good as what my mother makes. Also, I hope to carry this tradition each n every year so that my children can look back in time and say exactly what we siblings feel about my mom’s cake…. perfect!!! But the problem is my mom hasn’t baked in years because she says our home is an empty nest with the kids away and now when 2 of her kids (we are 3 siblings)are nearby, her health isn’t in her favor of standing and baking for long….infact, even the smell of melting butter isn’t good for her.
Traditionally, Christmas cake is made using dried fruits that’s been soaked in alcohol for months or even upto a year. The cake is baked couple of weeks ahead of X’mas, afterwhich, you “feed” the cake with the same alcohol that was used for soaking. Feeding the cake ensures the cake taste much better as they age or mature. It is done by making small holes on the top of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of brandy. This is done only once a week and should not exceed more than 3-4 times in total. Else, the cake will be tooo moist and will crumble.
But nowadays due to lack of time people do it slightly differently. One way is to soak the fruits months in advance and then bake it only a week ahead of X’mas. Feed the cake once, wrap it in clingwrap/kitchen towel that’s been brushed with alcohol, cover it in 2 layers of foil, keep it in an airtight tin and store in a dark place.They say the taste is not affected much because the fruits were soaked for months. But yea, it won’t be that moist and soft. The other way is to soak the fruits overnight, but then in that case, the cake is baked atleast a month, ideally 6 weeks ahead. The cake is then fed with alcohol once a week, wrapped in clingwrap/kitchen towel that’s been brushed with alcohol, covered in 2 layers of foil and kept in an airtight tin and stored in a dark place. Every week the cake is fed, the clingwrap/towel is brushed with more alcohol and wrapped.
Personally, I’d go for option 2 because that method ensures the whole cake matures well, the fruits absorb the alcohol pretty much and the cake is nice and soft.
Anyway, if you haven’t soaked your fruits, it’s still not late. Soak it today, so that the fruits get atleast 2 weeks for it to absorb all the alcohol. Mine have been soaking in since 2 weeks already because I soaked it in the 3rd week of November. Delayed post I know, but with 2 kids it was really difficult for me to post this sooner.
Here’s what you need to bake 2 fruit cakes that’s filled with nuts and dried fruits with barely enough cake batter to hold it all together. As always you can halve the recipe if you want just one fully loaded cake or want two not so loaded cake.
Ingredients for Soaking of fruits - I don’t exactly have a break down per se
- Dried Fruits - 1 kg i.e about 6 cups
- Black Raisins/Sultanas – 250 grams (I used Nectaflor brand and cut the raisins into halves/quarters depending on its size)
- Cashewnuts – 200 grams (chopped into small pieces)
- Dried Mixed Fruits – 375 grams (1 Whitworths box that contains sultanas, raisins, currants, Orange and Lemon Candied peel – and again cut these into smaller pieces)
- Watermelon and Orange Cubes -200 grams (Aptsienne brand – the red and orange fruit cubes that’s normally put in ordinary fruit cakes)
- Brandy/Rum/Whiskey – 700 ml bottle i.e. 3 cups (half of the quantity of fruits)
Do this atleast 2 weeks in advance for better results.
- chop up all your dried fruits, if they are not that small.
- Pour the brandy or other preferred choice of alcohol into it. Mix.
- Transfer to a container with a tight lid and keep it in dark place.
- Shake the contents atleast every alternate day till you’re ready to bake the cake.
- If the fruits are big pieces, it’s ideal to chop them into smaller pieces….this increases the amount of fruits in your batter and when you eat the cake it tastes better when you bite into small pieces than one big raisin.
- You could increase or decrease the quantity of dried fruits
- You could even add other types of dried fruits like dried peaches, apricots, prunes, pecan nuts, almonds, walnuts…..
Notes on Soaking the fruits
- Soak the fruits in alcohol (preferably brandy) atleast 2 weeks in advance.
- Mix or stir the fruits in the alcohol atleast once in 2 days.
- Within a day of soaking the fruits you’ll notice the alcohol doesn’t cover the fruits completely now. That’s because the fruits have absorbed the alcohol and there’s no need to add more. Just keep mixing it occasionally so that the uncovered fruits don’t dry up.
- See that the jar you use for soaking the fruits is free of any water and has a tight lid.
- Store it in the Kitchen cupboard where there’s no direct sunlight.
The cake recipe will be uploaded sooon