Rich Plum Cake - Christmas Cake - The Ultimate Winner

A couple of weeks ago I baked the first Christmas cake in ages that turned out alright. Infact it was quite good as people who tasted it said so. But since I didnt get the desired colour (I prefer my Christmas cake in a deep brown colour) I hunted like crazy for the perfect recipe & found one on Ria's Collection. Made a few changes here & there as per my taste & the ingredients available and the outcome was a fabulously moist & delicious cake!! Everybody liked it in Mangalore where I spent my Christmas this year.


This cake is worth the trouble you take to make it (gathering the ingredients, weighing them, blah blah). You dont need to soak the fruits for donkey's years and the cake doesnt smell too heavily of the rum (last year's cake was so drenched in rum that I got a little dizzy & so did my polite guests). I havent baked cakes for years, neither did my mom, so I decided to give myself another chance {and probably burn this one too - Marriages should be rock solid...not cakes :) }with another recipe out of the million's of recipes that I've gathered over the years. This one is the sure winner!


Rich Plum Cake - Christmas Cake - The Ultimate Winner
Soaking time 16-24hours (minimum) Prep time: 30-45 mins | Bake time approx 1 -1/2 hour | Yield: 2 cakes of 9" each

You Need:

Fruits to be soaked (for a minimum of 16-24 hours):
For the cake:
For the Caramel (which gives the dark colour to the cake):
Method:
Soak the fruits
Finely chop all the dry fruits and soak them in a wide bowl along with the rest of the ingredients mentioned under 'Fruits to be soaked'. Fruits need to be soaked at least for 16-24 hours at room temperature or for as long as you wish (a month or two in advance - preferably in a very cool place or in the refrigerator)

Prepare the oven & cake tins
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes. Grease two 9" pans thoroughly with butter and line them with baking paper/ parchment. Do not skip this step as the long bake time can burn your cake.

Prepare the caramel (when you are almost ready with the batter)
Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan (or kadhai) over medium flame. The colour will slowly change from white to brown to deep brown (almost black). Simmer & stir continuously to keep the liquid from frothing over.
Add freshly boiled hot water a little at a time and stir it. Ensure to keep at a safe distance as the boiling liquid can splutter on your face. Watch out!


Prepare the batter

1. Beat the separated egg whites and granulated sugar (6 tbsps) till fluffy and set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt a couple of times and keep aside. Roll the chopped nuts in a tablespoon of flour to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake. Keep aside.
2. In a large bowl (suitable for batter for two cakes) cream together the butter and powdered sugar adding the yolks one at a time. Beat well for about a minute after each addition. Add the soaked fruits and mix well.
Add the sifted flour mixture & semolina and fold.
3. Add the milk and fold. Pour in the caramel and mix carefully. Add the beaten egg whites and the chopped nuts.

Bake the cake
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for approx 1-1/2 hours or till the skewer comes out clean. The surface will be a deep brown. Baking time may vary depending on the oven size and type. Keep an eye on the cakes on the completion of 1 hour. 
When done, remove and allow the cakes to cool in the tins for about 10-15 minutes before transferring onto a wire mesh/rack. Pour 2 tbsp of rum over the hot cake (continue to feed the cake with rum till it is ready to be cut - this is optional)
Sift icing sugar over the cakes if you wish to decorate it. 


Notes:
1. I used an assortment of raisins (golden), black currants (deseeded), apricots, cranberries, candied peel/tutti frutti, glace cherries, tropical dry fruits such as pineapple, papaya, mango, chikku, etc. Avoid using dates as it can make the cake too sweet. Figs can be used but the seeds can be crunchy (avoidable)
2. I have used regular granulated sugar - powdered after measuring, caster sugar and also dark muscovado sugar. The regular sugar makes the cake a tad too sweet while dark muscovado (use 1 packed cup) gives the cake a lovely flavour and a deeper colour.
Baking time may vary a little depending on the type of oven. I used a tiny OTG which is too small to place two tins side by side, so I had to juggle a bit by shifting them on the top & bottom racks which resulted in an almost burnt surface on one of the two cakes thanks to the heating rods being too close - this is when the parchment paper does its job of protecting the cake from getting burnt
3. Add the caramel to the batter when it is still hot..if you let it cool it will turn sticky and soon into a hard mess. Adding the caramel while it is still boiling hot wont scramble the eggs in the batter, don't worry :)


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