Christmas Plum cakes are my favourite eats. A trip to Kerala is not complete if I don’t stock up on the rich cakes available at the numerous bakeries, after first checking out from locals as to which one is the ‘best’. I have been wanting to make the cake at home, but what with one thing and another could finally start the project this year. The first thing I had to learn was Soak Fruits for Christmas Fruit Cake. If this is done right, half your battle is won.
There are several steps to making the cake.
The First step is to Soak the Dry Fruits:
When to Soak Fruits for Christmas Fruit Cake?
From all the reading I have been doing, there are 4 possible broad timelines you can follow to soak Fruits for Christmas Fruit Cake. Of course there are many variations to this, and you can find your own comfort timeline as you get into the regular practice of making the Christmas cake each year.
a. Some people, start right in February or March, and bake the cake in the last week of November, or 5-6 weeks before Christmas, keeping it moist by drip feeding the cake with alcohol every week till Christmas.
b. The most popular method is to soak the fruits 3 months ahead of December, that is in early September. The cake is then baked in the last week of November, and kept moist by adding a little alcohol every week till Christmas.
c. In this time line the fruits are soaked about 5-6 weeks before Christmas, ie in the last fortnight of November, and baked a week before Christmas. This cake needs alcohol to be added just once, mid week before Christmas Day.
d. The short cut method if you need to make the cake without too much time for the soaking? Soak the fruits a month before Christmas – in the last week of November, but this time the soaking is just overnight. The next day, bake the cake, and touch up with alcohol once a week. Some people prefer this method, as the fruits are soaked but not overwhelmingly so.
So why do we need to soak the fruits at all? And why feed the cake after it is baked?
The Christmas fruit cake should be rich, dark, moist. When the dry fruits are soaked, they absorb the liquid and become plump. When baked, some of the liquid oozes out into the cake batter, resulting in a moist cake. So it is necessary to soak Fruits for Christmas Fruit Cake. Further, the cake tastes better as it matures, after baking. Adding a little liquid (generally through narrow holes drilled at the top) about once a week after baking, helps the cake remain moist.
What fruits are best for a Christmas cake?
A Christmas fruit cake is of course all about the fruit, the flour and butter only help to bind the fruits and nuts and hold them into a shape. Select the best quality available, with a mix of fruit of different colours, textures and tastes. Aim for preservative free fruits. Here are my suggestions:
- Black Raisins and sultanas – raisins are the dark dried grapes, while sultanas are the golden ones.
- Currants -black or red
- Orange and Lemon peel – candied or plain
- Dried Dates – seedless, soft
- Dried Figs
- Dried Apricots
- Other dried fruits – Prunes, Glazed cherries, Mango, Papaya, Apple, Pineapple , Blueberries, Plum etc.
To prepare the fruits:
Before you soak fruits for Christmas Fruit Cake, there is a little preparation to to be done. The fruits should be sliced small, about 1cm or so. The dates could be a little larger and chunkier as they soften and break up during baking. All the other fruits should best be sliced to an even size. Slicing the fruits means there is more fruit in the cake and its tastier when you bite into small pieces of fruit rather than a few large chunks.
More proportion of apricots, mango and papaya would make for a lighter cake. More of figs, dates and prunes would give a richer, heavier one.
The overall quantity of dried fruits and nuts should be as per the recipe you plan to use, and within this quantity you could mix and match to your preference.Don’t overload on the citrus peels though, they are meant to enhance the flavours of the other fruits.
The Soaking liquid
For Alcoholic soaks, I have opted for dark rum. If you feel rum maybe too sweet, whisky or sherry could be other options. Wine could be used instead of rum.
I have suggested 2 cups of rum in the recipe below. When soaking the fruits, add only as much liquid as is required to cover the top of the fruits. Generally you would need about half of the volume of fruit.
For Non Alcoholic cakes, I have read that dark tea can be used – brew the tea, cool and use. I have not tried this method however. For my little granddaughter Natasha’s cake, I am soaking the fruit in orange juice, and storing it in the fridge till I am ready to bake the cake. I have reduced the zest and citrus peels as I don’t want the cake to be too tart.
Click here for the recipe on this blog, for Christmas Fruit Cake