There are cakes and then there are cakes... and then there is the fruit cake. The market always fills up with fruit and plum cakes this time of the year. And I while I have this strong urge to buy a cake and eat it, the urge to bake my own is stronger. This year, while I began preparations for my cake in the first week of December, the thought of making caramel put me off. You might all remember the mental fatigue that I experience when I am faced with a slightly arduous task. This seemed to be yet another classic example. I wanted to bake my cake a week before Christmas, so we could eat it on Christmas Day. I finally got down to it on Christmas Day. The picture above is of the cake I've saved for tonight. The one below is of the cake we devoured the very day it was made.
This recipe has been in my family for about 20 years now. And I made it almost every year from the time I discovered it. And exactly where did I discover this oh-so-simple recipe? On the reverse of a Rex Baking Powder label. I think this was about a year after I took an active interest in baking. I figured the recipe had one major error because of which I got pristine white cakes year after year with a generous sprinkling of fruits. The recipe asked me to mix the sugar and water and then boil it to form caramel. It just formed sugar syrup. After a few years, I started burning the sugar to form caramel and from then on I got a totally different avatar. And we were hooked.
This year, however, I made a few more changes to the recipe. I soaked my dry fruits in rum instead of in lime juice (and used twice the quantity of dry fruits and nuts the original recipe called for). I also substituted brown sugar for white sugar.
2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 cup Dry Fruits (figs, apricots, prunes, raisins, currants and sultanas), chopped
1/4 cup Candied Peel
1/4 cup Tutti Fruiti
1/2 cup Mixed Nuts (Walnuts, Cashews, Almonds), chopped
1 cup Dark Rum (optional - you could use 2 tbsp Lime Juice to soak the dry fruits)
1 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 cup Oil
1 tsp Cinnamon Powder
For the Caramel:
1/2 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Boiling Hot Water
Soak the dry fruits, candied peel and tutti fruiti along with the cinnamon powder and cloves in 2/3 cup rum for anywhere between 24 hours and 1 year. (I soaked them for 3 1/2 weeks.) Do remember to remove the cloves before using the fruits.
When you are ready to bake the cake, start by making the caramel. In a heavy bottomed pan, place the 1/2 cup of sugar and heat slowly. The sugar will begin to melt. Stir this mixture with a spoon slowly as the caramel forms. When all the sugar crystals have melted, slowly add the boiling water and stir to form a smooth mixture. Cool this completely.
Sift the flour along with the baking powder. In a mixing bowl, add the oil, eggs and brown sugar and beat well. To this, add the flour mixture, the fruits and the nuts by turns. Whisk well and then add the cooled caramel.
Grease and line two 8 inch baking tins and divide the batter between the two. (I used a loaf tin and an 8 inch square tin.) Bake at 190 C/375 F for about 50 minutes. When baked, make small slits in each cake and pour the remaining rum over them. While this cake is delicious straight out of the oven, try storing it for a week before consuming it. (To do this, wrap the cake in foil and then cover it with cling film.) This cake ages beautifully. In the past, I've never been able to save it long enough as it always disappeared in 2 days. This time around, I have put one cake away and we'll cut it at midnight tonight. A friend ate her bit last night and told me it was wonderful. I really can't wait.
I couldn't have chosen a better item for my last post of 2007. The time of the year demands such a cake and I got a chance to share one of my most treasured recipes with all of you. It is by far the simplest recipe for a fruit cake that I have come across and it tastes divine. Off this goes to Lakshmi and Latha of The Yum Blog as my second entry to AFAM - Dry Fruits.
Just as I have always believed that one can find love in the most unusual of places (and my own life stands testimony to this), I firmly believe that one can find the best of recipes in the most unusual of places. If only we cared enough to look!
Happy New Year!