Let's get started with the Christmas Specials..... Shall we?. I'm getting this party started with my recipe for traditional Christmas Cake. Everyone needs a good Christmas Cake recipe and this recipe is easy and simple, and the best part,is that it makes one 8 inch cake. Not everyone wants to bake 20 Christmas cakes huh.
This recipe makes that lovely traditional cake that you get at bakeries, or if you remember what traditional wedding cake taste like. It uses the method of making caramel with white sugar and don't be put off by this slightly extra effort to make this cake. I've posted step by step instructions with photographs and really, don't let this caramel process intimidate you. Keep calm and bake on. Trust me, it's hardly an epic effort.
You'll need a cup of soaked dry fruit for this recipe. Check this post for details on that. The rest of the ingredients apart from the caramel are the usual, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla essence. You can also add a couple of teaspoons of caraway seeds like I did
They do look a bit like cumin seeds and are often also sprinkled on breads and rolls .
I assume the method of using caramel in making this cake is as a substitute for brown sugar. There are tonnes of recipes for fruit cake with brown sugar, but I figured we needed one like this that uses ordinary granulated sugar, knowing that brown sugar isn't easily available everywhere.
To make the cake, you need to first start on the caramel. In a thick bottomed pan, heat the sugar adding just a tablespoon of water. It might look like it isn't enough for the sugar to melt, but as the sugar heats up, it'll melt easily. You could add a bit more water if you're unsure, and this will only increase the time for the sugar to caramelize.
Leave the sugar to melt on a low heat and resist the urge to stir it with a spoon, instead slowly swirl the pan to make sure the sugar is melting equally. As the sugar is melting, heat the water in a separate vessel, it needs to come to the boil , and you need to add it to the sugar, once it has caramelized.
As it turns to a dark brown, it might smoke a bit, don't hit the panic button, this is completely ok. The colour of the caramel decides the colour of the cake, so don't be afraid to let it turn to a really dark brown. Don't worry about it making the cake taste bitter either, it wont, unless you let it burn. Remember, just keep it on a low flame.
Caramelized sugar is very hot to touch, so don't try dipping your finger in it to taste, you'll end up with a burn. Make sure you don't have little kids running around when you're making this caramel sauce. When the sugar has turned to a really dark brown, take it off the stove and hold it above your kitchen sink, and remember to have your oven mitts on, sorta extra precaution. Now add the boiling water, and I must warn you, the water will make the mixture bubble furiously, so stand back. Give it a few seconds and it'll mellow down and you can gently swirl the pan to let the sauce blend. And there, you have your caramel sauce READY!!!!!!!! It should look something like this.
You need to make the sauce first, because you can add it to the batter only when it has cooled down. So start with making the caramel sauce and as it cools down, start making the cake batter.
Now, getting on to the cake. First, line the bottom and sides of your baking tin. Like this
This is important, not only to stop your cake from sticking to the sides, but also since the cake takes a while to bake, you don't want the sides to over bake and get too hard.
Once you've lined your tin, sieve the flour , baking powder and spice powder, keeping aside 2 tbsps of flour for the fruits. For the spice mix you can use a mix of nutmeg , clove and cinnamon powder, which you will easily find in grocery stores. Check nilgiris, I've often bought these there.
Then, the usual, beat the butter and sugar, add the eggs, one by one, and then the essence. Fold in the flour. The last thing you need to do is toss in the fruits. Taking 1 cup of mixed fruits, toss them in the reserved flour. Coating the fruits this way, will prevent the fruits from sinking to the bottom of the pan.
The batter for this cake is also slightly thick, again helping the fruits stay in place.
Place the cake in a preheated oven and this should take about an hour to bake at 170 degrees, that is , till a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.
Once your cake has cooled down, poke tiny holes in it, using a toothpick and pour some rum over it. AND one more thing, let the cake sit for a few days, the flavours develop and the cake tastes better if you let it sit for a few days. Don't worry if the top of the cake is a bit hard, it'll soften over a couple of days. Once it has cooled, and you've poured the rum , wrap it in cling film and keep it on the counter for at least a week and you can also let it sit for longer, weeks if you like. This way, you can make all your Christmas cakes well in advance and wont have to run around like a headless chicken, baking cakes a day before Christmas.
Then again, if you just can't wait to have it right away, dig in, you'll still taste a wonderful cake. and you can always make another one again.
Makes 1 8'inch round cake
For the caramel
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
For the cake
1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon,
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp cloves powder
1 tsp baking powder
85 gms cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 cup dry fruits
2 tsp of caraway seeds
Rum 4 tbsps, to pour over the cake