Tuesday, December 22, 2009

That Special Time of The Year

Ma's Fruit Cake

Fruit Cake

What can I say about the Christmas Cake that has not already been said? Baking the annual cake at Christmas was a ritual which I remember even today. With no electric oven or cake mixers, this was no mean feat and took hours to prepare. All of us had to take turns at creaming the butter and sugar (with numerous licks and digs in between), whipping the eggs and chopping the various fruits. Of course we sampled everything liberally and I sometimes wonder how the cake turned out so well. All we had was a tiny black box with one rack inside and this had to be placed on a kersosene stove and manipulated until the cake emerged fragrant, dark brown and oh so delicious. Later on, when the black box was past its prime my mum would send the cake to the bakery to be baked for a small fee. Now, that has all changed and every household boasts an oven. The recipe below is one that has been made by my mum every Christmas, for more than fifty years. Old is gold so they say and I truly believe in that.

The Recipe

200 gms each of flour, caster sugar, tuitti fruitti, black currants, sultanas, cherries,preserved pumpkin and broken nuts; 4 eggs, 250 gms salted butter, 1 tsp. mixed spice powder, 50 gms candied peel, ½ tsp. baking powder; 1tsp vanilla; 50 gms grated ginger; 4 tbsp brandy/rum (optional), ½ cup burnt sugar. NB; I prefer salted butter as the taste is more balanced, not too sweet, just right.

Chop fruits and soak in brandy or rum overnight. I always have presoaked fruits ready at hand. Sieve flour and baking powder into large bowl. Add rest of the ingredients and stir till smooth and glossy. Bake at 150 C or till skewer inserted in centre comes out clean for 40 or 45 minutes.

N.B.I have dispensed with the laborious method of making a fruit cake and adopted the easy way to a delicious, crumbly and moist fruit cake. Try it and see for yourself.

Burnt Sugar

1 cup sugar; 1 cup water.

Place sugar in nonstick pan and place on fire on medium heat. As soon as it begins to caramelize lower heat and stir gently with wooden spoon till as dark as possible. Add water slowly. It may spurt so be careful. Stir till burnt sugar is fully dissolved. Cool and use as desired. Add required amount to cake batter to get the desired consistency.

And for the modern Mum and busy housewife, I am including 2 easy to bake recipes which I have baked over the years. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Christmas Brownies

250 gms craisins(dried cranberries), chopped can use tuitti fruitti instead of craisins; 1/3 cup each of cherries, blackcurrants, pumpkin, tuiti fruiti and sultanas, chopped; ½ cup rum, optional; 125 gms Cocoa powder; 125 gms salted butter; 100 gms almond pieces; 2 cups brown sugar; 4 eggs; 1 cup plain flour; 1/4 tsp. baking powder.
Place the chopped fruits in a small bowl and soak in rum for 1 hour. Toast nuts 5 minutes in oven (130C) for 5 minutes and cool. Strain dried fruits from rum. In large bowl combine all the ingredients. Mix to combine. Bake 35 minutes in lined and greased pan in preheated oven (180C). Pan measurements 9” square. Cool and cut into 20 squares. Can drizzle with milk chocolate if desired.

Almond Meal Cake

1 cup condensed milk; 1 cup flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 1 cup salted butter; 1 tsp vanilla essence; 250 gms almonds (soak overnight in water and grind to smooth paste). If using almond meal, omit this step; 1 tbsp caster sugar; 1 tbsp candied peel; minced.
Beat all ingredients together. Pour into greased baking tray. Bake 20 mins at 180C or 350F 8” pan. Cool, cut, serve. Does not keep well. So eat within 2 days.


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