I have been admiring these lovely fresh cherries that I don’t readily get in India (and when I do, only at astronomical prices) and trying to think of a suitable recipe to showcase their sweetness. This easy homemade cherry compote was just asking to be made, and it is so versatile, I’m going to be using it everywhere. Drizzle it on a pancake, slather it onto bread for a sandwich, spread it on a fruit pizza, spoon it on to ice-cream, have it with yogurt – or just eat it straight from the bowl, the possibilities are many. …
This is a step by step guide to making a rich Christmas Fruit cake. Do read the Steps as well as the tips given just below the history of Christmas Cakes here, before you move to the recipe. This will help you plan for soaking fruits as well as for baking the cake.
For a recipe on making an Eggless Christmas Fruit cake, click here.
After posting my guide on how to soak fruits for a Christmas Cake I have followed up with this recipe for baking the rich Christmas fruit cake. Last year I had soaked the fruits in the 3rd week of November, and by the first week week of December it was time to bake the cake, giving a little time for the cake to mature. This year I will try to soak the fruits earlier, in September or October.
This recipe is for a rich Christmas Fruit cake, though it tastes so good, I might just make it several times a year. No more buying dry plum cakes from the local bakery! If you are going to try this recipe, the first thing you have to remember is that you either soak the dry fruits ahead of time (here’s the link to my recipe for soaking the fruits) or at least start the preparation for making the cake a day before you plan to bake it – check in Step 1 below.
The quantities here are for one rich Christmas Fruit cake though I have actually made 3 small cakes – 2 with fruits soaked in rum and one little round one with fruits soaked in orange juice, for my little granddaughter Natasha. I made the batter for the cake and then separated a small quantity for Natasha’s orange flavoured cake.
For a little bit of Fruit cake history – Wikipedia says that some of the earliest known recipes from ancient Rome had pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins all mixed into barley mash! Later on, in what are called the Middle Ages, honey, preserved fruit and spices were added. The recipes varied from one country or region to another, down the ages depending on availability of ingredients locally as well as local customs, church regulations not permitting the use of butter during fasts, etc.
Wikipedia goes on to say that Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492) finally granted the use of butter, in a written permission known as the ‘Butter Letter’ or Butterbrief in 1490, giving permission to Saxony to use milk and butter in the North German Stollen fruit cakes. It was only in the 16th Century, that the awareness (and availability of sugar from the Colonies) that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created candied fruit, thus making fruit cakes more affordable and popular.
Now lets go on to our rich Christmas Fruit cake!
There are some preparations to be made before you can actually get to baking the cake, if you want to bring out the best flavours and rich moist softness of the cake without having it brown and burn on one side and remain sticky on the other.
Step 1: Preparing the Dry Fruits : I have given the steps for soaking the fruits well ahead of the baking, in my recipe on this blog, as well as my thoughts on what fruits to select, quantities, etc. Please refer the same for the mix and quantities of dry fruits for the cake. Link to the recipe on this blog: How to Soak Fruits for a Christmas Cake
This recipe is for a traditional rich Christmas Fruit cake, but if you have not soaked the fruits ahead of time, there is a short short cut which you could try – the intense flavour of well soaked dry fruits would not be there, but you would get a nice Christmas fruit cake anyway.
How to bake the rich Christmas Fruit cake without soaking the fruits:
The day before you are going to bake the cake, set the soaking liquid in a saucepan on the stove on low flame. Add the dried fruits and bring the mixture gently to a simmer, keeping the heat low so that the liquid does not boil away. Turn the fruits with the liquid into a bowl, stir it well, and once it cools, cover and keep in a dark cool place. For quantities of fruit and soaking liquid, check my recipe on this blog for soaking fruits for the Christmas Cake.
Soaking liquid: You could soak the dry fruits in alcohol (brandy, rum, cognac, etc) or in unsweetened fruit juice. For Natasha’s little cake I used freshly squeezed orange juice. A combination of orange and cranberry juice or apple juice would be good too. Black tea such as a Darjeeling tea, pre-soaked in cup of very hot water, could make an effective non alcoholic substitute. The dry fruits and nuts are the hero in this cake, The flour, butter and eggs are put to use to hold the fruits together and shape the cake.
Step 2: Preparing the Baking Tin : The recipe below is for an 8″ square tin, or a 9″ round one, or you could bake the cake in smaller tins or a round bundt tin. The Christmas cake is to be baked on low heat for a long time, so that it cooks evenly without burning. It is important to line the baking tin with parchment paper or grease proof paper.
I did not have brown parchment paper so I used the white one, but I have heard that brown parchment is of more use in keeping the cake sides and bottom from browning too fast or burning.
Grease the tin all around and use 2-3 layers of the parchment paper, lining the bottom and all sides of the tin, with an inch or two of paper protruding from the top of the tin on all sides. Some bakers suggest wrapping the outside of the cake tin too, with brown paper and tying it in place, so help ensure the cake does not overcook.
Step 3: Preparing the ingredients:
Check the list of ingredients below for the rich Christmas Fruit cake and ensure you have brought them all, specially the eggs and butter, to room temperature. You may even need to keep the butter out overnight for it to come up to room temperature, depending on the climate.
Measure all the ingredients and keep them ready. Mix the spices in the proportion given in the ingredients below.
Grind the almonds in a processor (unless you are using processed almond flour). Measure the flour and then sieve it along with the baking powder so that the baking powder gets dispersed into the flour. Chop the walnuts into small pieces.
Step 4: Bake the cake: When you are ready to go, set the oven to preheat at 160 deg C (320 F). Prepare the batter as per instructions in the recipe below. As the cake bakes, the liquid in the fruits oozes out and givens the Christmas Cake its moist, soft texture.
This is a crumbly cake but if you bake it correctly you can slice it cleanly. Using alcohol to soak the fruits for the cake is of course optional. The alcohol in the cake evaporates during the baking, however it leaves its flavour behind. As there would still be some residue in the cake, it would not be advisable for expectant mothers or children.
Some tips you may find useful in making the rich Christmas Fruit cake:
Molasses or Syrup: I have used dark molasses in the cake. You could substitute with treacle which is traditionally used in Christmas cakes, and if you don’t have either, use maple syrup or dark honey. The flavour would differ for each of these.
Nuts – I readily had available walnuts and almonds, and the almonds make a nice flour when ground which adds to the texture of the cake. Pecan nuts or hazelnuts or a combination of nuts could be substituted for the walnuts, in the same proportion as in the ingredients list below.
Zest: I have put both orange and lemon zest in the ingredients, to give the cake a lovely citrusy flavour. Whether you use only lemon or both is your option to choose.
Be gentle with the Batter Don’t mix or beat the batter more than required for the ingredients to just combine, as the cake would become heavy. Gently fold in the ingredients.
BakingTemperature and Time: Oven temperatures vary, so you need to keep checking your cake after an hour and a half. When a small skewer inserted comes out clean or with a few dry crumbs, your cake is done. I started my oven at 160 C and after an hour when I saw that the top looked set, I brought the temperature down to 150 C. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes for my cake to get done.
Storage: I have given the steps for storing the cake after baking, in the instructions below. Do not wrap the cake directly with foil as the alcohol or juice could react with the foil. Wrap in clingfilm and then in foil.The cake is not be refrigerated as it could harden and the sugar in it crystallize. The alcohol in the cake acts as a preservative.
I have not decorated the top of the rich Christmas Fruit cake, as it looks good as it is. I may do so before Christmas, though – a simple decoration of sliced almonds and sliced candied cherries, maybe. Next year I may cover the cake with icing in Christmassy theme.
How to make rich Christmas Fruit cake -Easy Recipe
For the rich Christmas Fruit cake
- 800 gms mixed chopped dry fruits 4 - 6 cups -check my recipe for how to soak fruits, for quantities -link given below
- 500 ml soaking liquid - alcohol or unsweetened juice 2 cups- liquid just to cover the fruits plus extra for topping
- 300 gm butter unsalted at room temperature
- 200 gm dark brown sugar
- 4 Eggs at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons molasses substitute with treacle- see notes above
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon Orange zest
- 300 gm flour plain flour / maida or a mixture of plain and whole wheat
- 1 tea spoon baking powder
- 150 gm almond -ground
- 150 gm walnut chopped small
For the Spice mix
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/8 teaspoon clove powder a Pinch
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- Combine the butter with sugar, in a food processor (or mix by hand) until fluffy and creamy, as fluffy as you can make it.
- Crack the eggs (I do this one by one in separate bowl) and add one by one to the butter sugar mixture.
- As the mixture may tend to curdle, it would help if you added a tea spoon of flour or almond flour to the mixture along with the egg. Stir till just combined. Add the molasses, lemon and orange zest, vanilla extract and gently fold it in. Too much of mixing can harden the cake, so fold in the ingredients without stirring the batter.
- Add the almond flour, flour with baking powder, spice mix and fold it in. Fold in the chopped nuts. Finally fold in the soaked fruits.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, till it reaches about 3/4 of the tin. Stir while pouring to expel any air bubbles.
- Place the tin in the oven and bake for about 2 hours. I baked it at 160C for an hour and then reduced the temperature to 150 C. It took 2 hours and 15 minutes for my cake to bake.
- Check by inserting a small wooden skewer -if it comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs, your cake is done! If the skewer comes out with sticky crumbs attached, the cake has to remain in the oven for some more time.
- After removing the cake from the oven, when it is still hot, carefully drill a few small holes on top with a wooden skewer. Brush with alcohol or whatever soaking liquid you have used. Set the cake to cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove carefully from the tin, separate and remove the parchment papers.
- Wrap the cake with clingfilm and then in a double layer of foil, making sure you have access to the top of the cake for moistening with liquid later on. Do no directly use foil on the cake as the alcohol or citrusy liquid could react with the foil.
- Store the packed cake in an airtight container in a cool dark place. Every 2 weeks till before the last week of Christmas, pour a little alcohol or juice on top to keep the cake moist.
- Use the same liquid in which you soaked the fruits, for moistening it. Eg if you soaked the fruits in rum, top the cake with rum and not other alcohol, to keep the flavours consistent.
- Alcohol infused cakes do not require refrigeration as the alcohol acts as a preservative. If well wrapped, the cake should keep for several weeks.
Everything about this bread is good, the making and baking, the taste, the aroma. I have followed the recipe for Brown butter Banana Cranberry Bread from Joy the Baker, as faithfully as I could except that I reduced the cranberries to 1 cup and used frozen instead of fresh. The original recipe did not specify how to use the crumble, so I added it when it seemed appropriate. Cranberries are chock-full of vitamins and minerals as well as said to have several other medicinal uses, which, Wikipedia says, are however largely unconfirmed by research. Doctor had advised adding them to P’s diet to help heal an internal inflammation, so I pulled out the pack of frozen cranberries from the freezer and scouted out interesting recipes to use them in….
The picture can’t convey the aroma of vanilla, butter and blue berries wafting through the house! The headiest perfume, ever! Easy to make
My little granddaughter Tamanna loves these easy Strawberry Buttermilk pancakes. As do I! A simple and delicious breakfast treat with very little effort.
The buttermilk subtly adds its unique flavour to the pancakes. Serve the easy Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes hot with honey or syrup and with a knob of butter melting on top.
The secret to perfect pancakes is in mixing the batter lightly, at the same time ensuring the ingredients mix smoothly and there are no lumps. Too much whisking or beating could make the pancakes tough and not allow them to rise.
This recipe will guide you to make pancakes by substituting the strawberries with seasonal fruit available to you – try it with Blueberries, Apples, Pear, Banana or Mulberries and earn brownie points from the family!
Kitchen tips for making really easy Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes:
- If using apples, pear or banana, add them to the batter rather than scatter on the pancake.
- Leave out the vanilla if you are adding cinnamon to the dry ingredients.
- The pan on which you are going pour the batter for these easy strawberry buttermilk pancakes should be hot. I use my well used iron skillet (tava) and the pancakes come out soft and fluffy.
Strawberries are now more easily available at Bangalore than they used to be, and whipping up the strawberry buttermilk pancakes takes very little time. If you haven’t made them before, check the step by step recipe below and give your family a treat this weekend.
To read more about Strawberries as well as other quick recipes using strawberries, such as strawberry salad dressing and tasty easy salads, click the link below to my post on this blog for the ‘Ingredient spotlight’ on Strawberries.
Really Easy Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes
- 1 cup all purpose flour /maida
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 pinch salt -
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg large
- 3 tbsps butter (melted)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract - (optional)
- 1 pinch cinnamon ( for apple pancakes - see 'Kitchen Hints' in the write up above)
- 1 cup Strawberries diced -about 1 cm or less in size
To make the Strawberry Buttermilk Pancake Batter
- Check that all the ingredients, eggs, buttermilk, butter etc are at room temperature. Sieve the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and stir them so they mix. Check the expiry date on the baking soda, before use.
- Break the egg into a cup, check the egg is fresh. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and half the buttermilk and the melted butter. 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract could be whisked into to the wet ingredients for added flavour.
- Make a well in the flour mixture, pour in the buttermilk egg liquid. Draw the flour mixture into the liquid using a rubber spatula, and let the ingredients combine smoothly, adding the remaining buttermilk as required. Mix lightly as too much of mixing could keep the pancakes from rising and make them tough.
- Your batter is now ready! Dice the strawberries into even sized small pieces (about 1cm or less) and set aside till required.
To Make Strawberry Buttermilk Pancakes
- Heat the non-stick frying pan or cast iron skillet. Bring the stove heat to low flame.
- As there is already butter in the pancake batter and if you are using a nonstick pan, you don't need to add butter to cook the batter. You could however lightly spray oil on the surface of the pan or daub it with 1/2 tsp of butter/ oil, if the surface is dry.
- Pour pancake batter onto the hot pan or griddle using a round ladle or a 1/4 cup measure.
- Scatter 1 tablespoon of chopped strawberries on the pancake. When bubbles appear and pop on the surface all around the pancake, (about 2 mins) gently flip it to the other side so that the strawberries face the surface of the pan.
- Cook for about 1 minute and raise the flame to medium. Cook for 30 secs or till the bottom of the pancake is firm and can be easily removed from the pan.
- Transfer to a serving dish and proceed with the next pancake. Now that the pan or griddle is hot enough, the remaining pancakes should cook faster. Serve hot with honey or syrup of your choice and with a knob of butter.