The perfectly moist, heavenly, rum-packed Christmas fruitcake! You have to try it to believe it! 🙂
The Fact: Fruitcake was often put into ancient Egyptian tombs because it was thought the preserved food would not spoil on the journey to the afterlife. The Inspiration: With Thanksgiving just over, it’s already time to prepare for the next big celebration—Christmas! Despite all the Christmas clichés, the season brings with it this beautiful warm feelings right in the middle of a wintry cold December. Along with the family holidays, delicious meals, subtle and beautiful decorations, the Christmas tree, and the melodious carollers, there’s also the traditional Christmas cake that’s a ritual in so many homes. In my home, the scene’s no different—my mornings begin with the sweet sound of carols, the crazy annual cleaning’s in full swing, shopping’s on the cards, gift lists are being prepared and the sweet smell of sherry, rum and brandy is wafting through my kitchen as I type. Yes, my Christmas cake ritual has been set in motion. It’s a tried and tested recipe that’s been handed down to me by my mum. Isn’t it time for you to make this lovely, rum-oozing Christmas cake recipe your own? So before the season kicks in, here’s wishing you a joyful Christmas and a good-food-filled New year!
The IngredientsMakes one 10″ cake
- 100 gms raisins
- 100 gms currants
- 100 gms almonds (soaked overnight and peeled)
- 50 gms pistachios (soaked overnight and peeled)
- 50 gms peeled cashew nuts
- 50 gms orange peel or finely grated orange zest (approx 4 – 5 oranges)
- 50 gms candied ginger peel
- 50 gms glace cherries
- 250 gms softened butter
- 100 gms muscovado or Demerera sugar
- 150 gms regular white sugar
- 250 gms plain flour
- 1.5 litre dark rum (I’ve heard of friends using sherry instead, but haven’t tried it myself, so feel free to experiment)
- 4 large or 5 small eggs
- 2 heaped tsp mixed spice (Mixed spice is a mixture of Allspice powder [powdered form of a specific pepper, called Pimenta dioica], cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.) – For this recipe, you can make mixed spice with six 1″ sticks of cinnamon, 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp ground/finely grated nutmeg. To it add 1 tsp ground ginger. Roast all the spices on a pan or in a microwave. When cool, grind all the spices to a fine powder. Store the extra powder in a glass, airtight container—remember, the aroma is the key so don’t let it escape!)
Soaking the fruit
Chop the raisins and currants, lengthwise, each, roughly into three bits.
Finely slice the orange peel, candied ginger peel, almonds, pistachios, and cashew nuts, lengthwise; do not julienne them or they’ll get lost in the cake.
Mix together the cut fruits and toss them into a large glass jar with a tight lid. Leave enough space at the top, almost one-fourth of the jar. Use two glass jars if required. Pour 1 litre rum over the fruits and ensure that the rum completely covers the fruits. Tightly seal the bottle to prevent the alcohol from evaporating. As days go by and the fruits soak up the rum, the level of rum will reduce. Keep topping up the jar with rum so that the fruits always stay completely covered with rum. Store the glass jar in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight; you do not need to refrigerate the jar. These conditions allow the fruits to soak in as much rum as they can.
Allow the fruit to soak for as long as you can. I usually soak the next year’s fruit this year so that the fruit has soaked for a whole year. I’ve noticed that the fruits develop a lovely deep colour and the flavor is quite indescribable. I do this year after year—trust me, there’s no down side to it. Fruits stored in the right way, with the rum level always higher than the fruit level, can stay good for up to 2 – 3 years. So, the procedure in this recipe is actually for next year’s cake while I’m using last year’s fruit batch this year. If you haven’t already gotten started yet, start now so that your fruits have had at least 2 – 3 weeks of soak time before you bake your Christmas cake.
Preparations for baking the cake
Caramelize the sugar: If you prefer a dark brown colour and a lovely caramelized flavor to your cake, which is my preference, caramelize the sugars first. To do so, place a non-stick skillet or frying pan on the stove on low to medium heat. Make sure that the pan is not too small or the caramel will boil and overflow. Add the brown and white sugars to the pan while it’s still cold. Both sugars melt at slightly different temperatures, but that doesn’t matter. Allow the sugar to melt untouched, while gradually prodding the edges from time to time. Once all the sugar has melted completely, sprinkle a quarter cup of water over the caramel to prevent it from hardening while you ready the batter. The caramel should be a deep golden brown at this point; not brown-black. WARNING! Take care as you pour the water because water causes the caramel to sizzle quite a bit. Make sure your fingers are far away from the pan. Don’t worry about dirtying your stove because caramel cleans up very easily with regular water. Once the sizzling has stopped, stir the sugar and water and keep the caramel aside to cool. Remember that water prevents caramel from hardening; without water, caramel tends to harden, making it difficult for you to add it to the batter later.
Ready the fruits: Using a slotted spoon, measure out 550 gms of the soaked fruits (that’s all of it if you’ve used the measures suggested above). Try to drain out as much of the rum as you can. Store the rum; it’d be criminal to discard it 🙂 Chop up the glace cherries and mix it with the fruit mixture. Sprinkle the fruit mixture with a generous handful of flour and toss the fruits in it so that the fruits are lightly coated with the flour. Keep aside.
Prepare the cake tins: Grease one cake tin. I used a 10”/25cm wide and 2” deep, round tin. You could also use a standard 9”/23cm round tin or a 9 x 2” square tin. But remember that if you use the smaller tin, you might end up with a little batter to spare. You could pop that extra batter into cup cake moulds; but avoid overloading the cake tin instead. Spray the tin with grease or lightly grease it with butter.
Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1.
Making the cake batter
For your cake batter, beat up the butter and eggs together in a large bowl with an electric, hand-held or free-standing beater. Add the caramel to the mixture. If your caramel is too hot, the eggs will scramble at this point. You don’t want this to happen, so get started after the caramel has sat for a few minutes. Beat the mixture well until fully blended.
Add the four and mixed spice and beat thoroughly until blended.
Whisk in about half a cup of the leftover rum (which is what I do—but if you have a lot of kids around or don’t like a very strong rum flavor, use a quarter cup or skip this step altogether).
Stir in the soaked fruits. Don’t beat this in as the fruits are very soft and may break up completely. You also don’t want to overdo the beating because the fruits will settle to the bottom of the cake—again, something you don’t want. So, be gentle.
Pour or spoon the batter into the readied cake tin and pop it into the oven.
Baking the cake
Bake the cake for a total of 2.5 – 3 hours in the centre of the oven, or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after two hours, and if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil.
Note that while this baking time of 3 hours might seem ridiculous, you should know that most other cakes bake at 180C/350F/Gas 4, which is way higher than what this Christmas cake bakes at. This duration ensures that the fruits in the cake cook well and their flavors are well incorporated in the cake. Also note that oven temperatures work differently—so check your cake after two hours and again in another 30 minutes. Don’t let the cake dry out too much.
Remove the cake when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin. When still warm, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and pour in a little extra rum. Allow the cake to cool completely.
Storing the cake
Wrap the completely cooled cake in a double layer of grease-proof paper and a third layer of foil OR one layer of foil and a second layer of cling wrap. Store the cake in a cool place until Christmas! You can store this cake for up to three months outside a refrigerator and even up to a year in the refrigerator. Remove the foil and cling wrap only when you’re about to cut the cake, and even after that, place the remaining cake or the uneaten bits back in the foil and cling wrap as suggested earlier. The layers keep the cake moist and retain that lovely rum aroma.
To keep the cake moist, feed it with rum every 3 weeks. Remember to wrap it up all over again before you store it.
Bon appétit and Feliz Navidad!