Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Eggless Indian Chrismas Fruit Cake (Plum Cake)

My husband loves plum cake we get in India during Christmas time. We bought a plum cake from an Indian store here. Needless to say, it didn't taste like the fresh cakes we used to get in India. So, I decided to try to make it at home. As I was going to make it at home, I omitted the eggs and the alcohol part. I know some of you might not agree that it is called a real Fruit cake without the rum, but believe me, it tasted very good. My whole house was filled with the aroma of the spices and fruits in the cake.

Some notes before starting:
For the dried fruits and nut portion of the cake, I soaked the chopped dried fruits and nuts in grape juice for 24 hour hours. You can soak these as much in advance as 1 year or 1 month, but of course I hadn't planned to make this a year ago:). Soaking in rum will give you a very authentic taste, but you can soak it in orange juice, apple juice or grape juice too.

Refrigerate: Once you add juice to your chopped fruits, mix well, and refrigerate. If left out to soak in hot climate (such as India), the juice will go sour and rancid and it might spoil your fruits and cake.

Four: I used a mix of Whole wheat flour and All purpose flour. You can definitely make this cake with 100% All purpose flour.

Dried Fruits: I used whatever dried fruits I found at the store. So my mix contained dried prunes, dates, pineapple, apricot and cranberries. I couldn't find ginger peel or orange peel, so I added dried ginger powder and lemon zest. You can use 1/2 tablespoon each of the chopped ginger peel and orange peel instead.

Nuts:  Again, I used whatever I had at home. So my cake contained chopped almonds, chopped pistachios, and chopped cashews. If you have pecan at home, that's a plus. I didn't have it at home when I was baking the cake.

Butter and Oil: I used a combination of butter and oil to make this cake. You can omit the oil altogether, and use 1 cup melted butter instead.

Now to the Ingredients:

Fruits and Nuts:
1/4 Cup Unsalted Almonds, Chopped
1/4 Cup Unsalted Pistachios, Chopped
1/2 Cup Unsalted Cashes, Chopped
1/4 Cup Dried Prunes, Chopped,
1/4 Cup Dried Pineapple, Chopped,
1/4 Cup Dates, Chopped,
1/4 Cup Dried Apricot, Chopped,
1/4 Cup Dried Cranberries, Chopped
1/4 Cup Maraschino Cherries, Chopped
1 Cup Fruit Juice of your choice (I used grape Juice)
10-12 Maraschino Cherries for decoration.

1.5 Inch Stick Cinnamon,
2 pieces Cloves,
4 pieces All Spice, (if you can't find all spice, use total of 2 inch of cinnamon, 3 pieces of cloves and 2 peppercorns).
1/8 Teaspoon Nutmeg, Freshly Grated, (or Nutmeg Powder)
1/4 Teaspoon Ginger Powder (OR 1/2 Tablespoon ginger peel, Chopped).

Cake Mix:
1-1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour,
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda,
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder,
1/2 Teaspoon Lemon Zest or Orange zest (Or 1/2 Tablespoon Orange Peel, Chopped)
1-1/2 Cup Brown Sugar,
1 Cup Milk,
2 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar (or Regular Vinegar),
1/3 Cup Unsalted Butter, Melted
2/3 Cup Oil

Soaking Fruits and Nuts: In a deep bowl, combine all the chopped nuts and fruits (except the cherries saved for decoration). Add the juice to the bowl. Make sure that the fruits and nuts are completely covered by the juice. (You might not need the whole 1 cup juice). Cover and refrigerate for minimum 24 hours. If you plan to soak for more than 24 hours, then stir the fruits every few days to ensure uniform soaking.
Dried fruits soaked in Grape Juice

Soaked Fruits Drained after 24 hours

In a blender (or mortar and pastel) combine and grind the first three spices listed in the spices section. Add the ginger powder and grated nutmeg. Mix well. Set aside.

Drain the fruits and set aside. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Grease only the bottom of an 8 Inch round baking pan. If you grease the side too, your cake will have a big bulge in the center. This happens because, as the cake rises, it tries to stick to the sides of the pan. If the sides are greased, the batter can't stick well, and starts to go down again. (I learned this in a cake baking classes here). See further notes below.

Add about 1 tablespoon of the all purpose flour to the fruit mix and coat well.  Sieve the two flours and baking powder. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the coated fruits, sugar, lemon zest, oil and butter to the bowl and lightly mix.

In another bowl, add 1 cup of milk. Add the apple cider vinegar and mix well. Set aside only for a couple of minutes (no longer). The milk will just start to curdle. Do not panic (We want it to happen). Now add the baking soda to the milk and mix. You should see some froth in the milk. If there is no froth at all, the baking soda might have expired. It is no longer useful for baking.

Add the frothy milk mixture to the cake mix. Stir well to combine. The batter should resemble pancake batter (thick), and not runny.

Transfer the batter to the cake pan. Arrange the saved maraschino cherries on top for decoration. I let my 3 year old do that for me. She was happy to help me out and show her creativity:).

Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick entered in the center of the cake comes out clean. Take out of the oven, and let it cool down completely (atleast 30 minutes) before trying to take it out.

Note regarding greasing a cake pan: Personally, instead of greasing the bottom of the pan, I just cut a parchment paper to match the shape of my baking pan, put it in the bottom and pour the cake mix over it (As learned in the cake baking class). This way my cake never sticks to the bottom of the pan, it always comes out in one piece:). Also, my bake ware never has any grease stuck to it. Easy to clean, no brown spots, and it still looks brand new.

Activity for Children:
If you have kids, this is also a good family activity. I have a three years old daughter. Every time, I am in the kitchen making something, she wants to help me out (of mess up my work:)). But last night, as I was prepping for the cake, she came to me and asked me what I was doing. I said, I am making a cake. She jumped with a joy and said, I want to make a cake too. So, I thought of using some additional help from her:).

She patiently waited for me, when I said I will give her a bowl to mix all the ingredients.( I rarely see her sitting, waiting patiently). I added all the dry ingredients in a bowl, and asked her to mix them for me, while I waited for the milk to curdle. I added the milk to the flour and asked her to mix it again. And at the end, I asked her decorate the cake with the cherries. I also have a small cake pan for her. I added some of the batter in her small butterfly shaped pan. She was very happy to decorate her "own "cake. She didn't even let anyone else eat her "butterfly" cake.

I took our her cake in 20 minutes. As her pan was very small, and shallow. Make sure to check your cake for doneness if you choose to use different size of pan.

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