It will be Christmas in less than a month, but there is still time to soak dried fruit in rum or brandy to make the perfect fruit cake. Here are recipes for a traditional fruit cake, one with an Asian twist and a booze-free, kid-friendly cake. Eunice Quek and Kenneth Goh report
Traditional fruit cake
Mrs Rose Eng, 66, housewife
This adventurous baker turns out unusual treats such as curry chiffon cakes. but for Christmas, she prefers to stick to tradition with a rum-soaked fruit cake.
Her recipe comes from a cooking class she attended 30 years ago and she still refers to the now-yellowed recipe sheet.
The grandmother of six says: "Since I bake fruit cakes only once a year, I'd rather stick to a tried-and-tested recipe. The alcohol in the cakes ensures they can be kept longer and enhances the taste of the fruit."
Her recipe yields four 1kg cakes, so they become Christmas gifts too. Every year, she bakes 20 fruit cakes for her family and church friends.
She says with a laugh: "It is a good gift to bless others as I do not need to think of what presents to buy for them. Every year, they can expect a fruit cake from me."
- 1.3kg dried fruit mix
- 250ml rum, plus more for drizzling
- 6 Tbs white sugar
- 12 Tbs evaporated milk
- 560g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3 tsp mixed spice (rempah kueh)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 300g walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 500g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 350g brown sugar
- 8 large eggs
- 1 Tbs vanilla extract
- 125g green glazed cherries, halved
- 125g red glazed cherries, halved
- 100g whole almonds
- 2 Tbs apricot jam
1. Combine the dried fruit and 250ml of rum in a bowl and set aside for at least two days at room temperature.
2. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 150 deg C and line four 15cm round cake tins with parchment paper.
3. In a saucepan set over medium heat, add white sugar and 4 Tbs of water. Bring mixture to a boil to caramelise the sugar. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a minute before pouring in the evaporated milk. Place the pan over low heat and stir until the mixture bubbles. Set aside.
4. Sift flour, baking powder, mixed spice (rempah kueh) and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
5. Mix the chopped walnuts with the soaked fruit and 9 Tbs of the flour mixture.
6. Cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla extract and pour the caramel sauce gradually into the batter. Add the remaining flour mixture.
7. Pour the batter into the bowl containing the dried fruit and walnuts and mix well.
8. Distribute batter among the four cake tins and level the tops with a spatula.
9. Decorate the cakes with red and green glazed cherries and almonds (pictured).
10. Bake for 21/2 hours. If the tops of the cakes get too brown, cover with aluminium foil. To check if the cakes are ready, insert a skewer into their centres. They are cooked when the skewer comes out clean.
11. Cool the cakes, still in their tins. When they are completely cool, turn them out (top facing down) onto a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Use a skewer to poke holes in the cakes and drizzle 5 to 6 tsp of rum over each cake. Flip them onto plates.
12. Mix the apricot jam with 2 Tbs of water in a saucepan, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, add 1 Tbs of rum and stir. Brush the glaze on top of the cakes.
Makes four 1kg cakes
Non-alcoholic fruit cake
Mr Joseph Lim, 44, freelance writer and English tutor
Not all Christmas fruit cakes have to be soaked in alcohol to taste good.
Mr Lim's non-alcoholic version is not only suitable for kids, but also good for those who want to pack in protein, as he uses almond flour and egg whites in the recipe.
Some twists include adding cocoa powder as well as candied ginger for "extra zing".
He says: "I've always loved fruit cake because it makes Christmas meals festive. But store-bought fruit cake is always too sweet. This wheat-free and protein-rich version is denser, but still moist and, most importantly, guilt-free."
The fruit cake is an annual feature at his family's Christmas gatherings and the avid cook bakes for his friends too.
- 300g dried figs, chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 100g sultanas
- 100g candied ginger
- 200g butter
- 90g jaggery (unrefined cane or palm sugar) or gula melaka
- 90ml honey
- 1 tsp ground mixed spice (a blend of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice)
- 2 Tbs cocoa powder
- 6 egg whites
- 200g almond flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 150 deg C.
2. Place the figs, sultanas, candied ginger, butter, jaggery, honey, mixed spice and cocoa powder in a pot over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from heat, scoop the mixture into a large bowl and set aside to cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
4. In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
5. In another bowl, mix the almond flour, baking powder and baking soda.
6. With a spatula, fold the egg whites into the fruit mixture in three batches. Then fold in the flour mixture in three batches.
7. Grease a 28cm-long rectangle loaf tin. Pour the batter in and bake for 45 minutes. To check if the cake is ready, insert a skewer into its centre. It is cooked when the skewer comes out clean.
8. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack before removing from the tin and serving.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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