Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Cake

It is not going to be a doorstop. Nor is it a hurling stone or a shot put ! My cake redoubtedly is a much lighter animal. Fruit cakes have such a bad rap. Almost everyone I know has dismal memories of a dark heavy slice. I too have one where an aunt sent me a cinder block that came with a sourdough starter. It was one of those chain presents. Both items were quickly relegated to the garbage bin. 

Mum made this cake religiously every December. She remembered to macerate the fruit in November. Assiduous in her measurements,  she made sure her helpers, the younger generation, worked as per her instructions. Golden brown cakes came out of the oven smelling heavenly, brandy fumes overpowering raisins and currants! Her cakes didn't remain table side too long. We demolished them enthusiastically. I make her recipe every year. Or shall I say, I attempt to!  I almost always forget to macerate citron peels in liqueur. This year candied peel is macerated on Monday. Caramel made on Tuesday. Flour sifted on Wednesday. Baked on Thursday. A tale of Christmas cake made Solomon Grundy style..

Makes 2 9-inch cakes or 4 mini loaf pans

250 grams Sugar
250 grams Butter at room temperature
5 Eggs at room temperature 
250 grams Flour
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 1/2 teaspoon Cinammon powder
1/2 teaspoon Clove powder
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg powder
2 cups mixed Candied Peel
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
1/4 cup Brandy
2 tablespoons slivered Almonds(optional)
2 tablespoons Walnuts pieces(optional)
1 cup Sugar (to be caramelized)
1/2 cup Water

Butter and line two 9-inch cake tins with parchment paper. OR generously butter 4 mini loaf pans.

Put candied peel and raisins in a nonreactive pan. Pour brandy over peel, stir and let peel macerate for at least one day or up to seven days.

Heat 1 cup of sugar in a pan. Watch carefully as sugar caramelizes and turns dark golden brown. Lower flame and add 1/2 cup water and let sugar bubble on a low flame till melted and slightly thickened. You can make the caramel the day before as it needs to be cool before you add it to the dough.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinammon, clove and nutmeg. Keep two tablespoons aside in a bowl.

Separate eggs. 

Heat oven to 300F.

Cream butter and sugar till fluffy.

Add egg yolks one at a time. Beat well.

Add the sifted flour a little at a time. 

Beat egg whites till stiff.

Add caramel to flour mixture beating slowly till it is all mixed in.

Gently fold in egg whites with a spatula.

Sprinkle remaining flour over candied peel and stir to coat.

Add peel and nuts to cake dough, mixing gently.

Divide dough between cake tins or loaf pans. Tap pans gently to remove any air pockets.

Place tins or pans on a sheetpan and bake for 1 1/2 hours.

Turn sheetpan around half way through baking.

Poke with a skewer. It should come out clean. Take cake out of the oven.

Cool pans on rack for 5 minutes.

Run a knife around the edges and invert pans onto cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely before storing them in a tin or wrapping in foil.

You could cut a slice while its piping hot, but it will crumble a bit. It tastes perfect if you could wait an hour. 

My kitchen is mess, with flour spatters, egg shells, a multitude of dirty bowls, spatulas and beaters. But the aroma is divine. The mandated cooling period is completely ignored. I can't wait to slice into a steaming loaf. I have a little trouble unmolding the loaves as I havent used parchment paper. Do as I say, not as I do!!!! I scrape the crumbs from the sides of the pans. Moist, sugary, golden brown crusty bits go from knife to my mouth. No hockey puck here. An ethereal, light as a feather cake. Not quite like Mum's, but its the next best thing.