The theme for this month’s Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge is ‘baking’, something at which I am just a beginner. I was supposed to bake something using the two secret ingredients that my partner for the challenge would give me – a daunting affair, but something I wanted to take up and explore, and so I did.
I was paired with Shobana Vijay, who writes at Shoba’s Delights, for the challenge, and she chose the ingredients ‘orange’ and ‘tooti frooti’ for me. The minute these ingredients were allotted to me, I knew exactly what I wanted to bake – an instant fruit cake! I’m glad I took up the challenge, for the cake turned out absolutely gorgeous. After a couple of failed attempts, I think I have arrived at a foolproof way to make this cake, and I’m thrilled to bits about that. It’s no secret that the husband and I love fruit cake, and the fact that I can now make it at home brings great cheer to me. So, yay to that!
As we all know, tonnes (okay, loads) of alcohol and months of soaking of dried fruits goes into a traditional Christmas-time fruit cake (popularly called ‘plum cake’ in India), so as to get a moist and wonderfully flavourful end product. The version I made, though, was an instant one, one with no alcohol and no soaking for months on end. It is made by boiling dried fruits in sugar syrup, which gives this version the name of ‘boiled fruit cake’ too. With the use of good-quality ingredients, this no-alcohol, no-soak, this boiled fruit cake tastes every bit as delectable as a traditional fruit cake, we think. It turns out perfectly moist, rich and wonderfully flavourful, just like its more traditional counterpart.
Here’s how I made this instant plum cake aka boiled fruit cake.
*Recipe adapted from Joy Of Baking*
Ingredients (makes 1 medium-sized loaf or about 12 slices):
- 55 grams unsalted butter (I used Nilgiri’s)
- 210 g demerera sugar/brown sugar (I used Eagle)
- 50 g black currants
- 150 g raisins
- 50 g dried and candied cherries
- 50 g dried and candied pineapple
- 50 g tooti frooti
- 50 g dried and candied orange
- 1 cup water
To powder with mortar and pestle:
- A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
- A 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 4-5 cloves
- 1-1/2 cups maida (I use whole wheat flour instead)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- Chop the cherries and the dried pineapple and orange into small pieces. Transfer to a plate. Transfer the raisins, black currants and tooti frooti to the plate too. Keep all these dried fruits handy.
- Peel the ginger and grate it finely. Keep aside.
- Crush the cloves and cinnamon to a powder, using a mortar and pestle. Keep aside.
- Take the unsalted butter and brown sugar in a thick-bottomed pan, and set on gas at high flame. Add in the grated ginger, cinnamon and clove powder, and all the dried fruit. Once the sugar starts melting, turn the flame to medium. Keep cooking, stirring intermittently, for 6-7 minutes. Ensure that the mixture doesn’t burn and stick to the bottom of the pan. The sugar might crystallise, but don’t worry about that now – just keep stirring and cooking.
- Switch off the gas after 6-7 minutes and immediately add 1 cup of water to the cooked sugar-dry fruit mixture. Be careful while you do this, as the mixture might splutter. Mix well. You should get a liquidy sugar syrup with semi-soft dried fruits in it.
- At this stage, if you feel the sugar crystals are still visible and haven’t melted entirely, simmer this mixture (on low-medium flame) for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add a bit more water only if required. When the sugar has completely melted, switch off gas.
- Keep this mixture aside and allow it to cool down slightly and get lukewarm.
- Meanwhile, sift the flour and baking soda together. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Keep aside.
- Preheat the oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.
- In another mixing bowl, break the eggs and beat them lightly. Add the beaten eggs to the sifted flour.
- When the sugar-dried fruits mixture has cooled down, add it to the flour and eggs in the mixing bowl. Add in the vanilla essence. Mix everything well.
- Line a loaf tin with parchment paper, leaving some hang out on all sides.
- Pour the cake batter onto the lined loaf tin, and place it in the oven. Bake at 180 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool down completely before slicing it. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature. This cake stays well for 3-4 days.
- You can reduce the quantity of raisins and add in some sliced almonds and/or cashewnuts, but I skipped that. I usually like making this cake with just dried fruits.
- Refined white sugar can be used in place of demerera/brown sugar, but you might not get a beautiful dark brown-coloured cake in that case.
- 1 teaspoon of dried ginger powder can be used in place of the grated fresh ginger.
- Orange zest or chopped orange peel can be used in place of sliced, whole dried oranges. I prefer using the latter.
- You could use a mix of demerera/brown sugar and refined white sugar to make the cake, too.
- If you feel the cake batter is too thick, you could mix in a couple of tablespoons of boiled and cooled milk to it.
- Please note that the dried pineapple and oranges, cherries and tooti frooti I have used here already have sugar in them. With the addition of 210 g of demerera sugar (as stated in the recipe), the sweetness of this cake was just perfect for us. Do reduce the quantity of sugar you use, if you want your cake to be a bit less on the sweeter side.
- Some people prefer adding the dried fruit, ginger, cinnamon and clove powder, sugar, water and butter to a pan, and boiling all of it together. I prefer adding the water later, after the sugar and dried fruits have already boiled.
- Ensure that the sugar-dried fruits mix does not burn, while you are boiling it.
- Make sure all the stems and seeds are removed from all the dried fruits, before using them.
- Ensure that the butter is brought to room temperature before you use it to make the cake.
- I bought all the dried and candied fruits and the tooti frooti that I used to make this cake from Ajfan, that wonderland for food lovers that I have come to love and have written about on my blog several times.
I know I have gushed enough in praise of this instant plum cake, but you should seriously try this out to know just what I mean. And when you do that, don’t forget to let me know how it turned out!