Christmas Special: Chocolate Fruitcake (Eggless, made with wheat flour & traditional brown sugar)

Its holiday season! We don’t celebrate Christmas at my home, but I love seeing the city decked up with decorations, stars and bright lights. Bakeries start stocking up on sweets and pastries – and the quintessential Christmas Fruitcake 🙂 This recipe here is adapted and tweaked based on Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Fruitcake recipe. Needless to say, I love Nigella (although my heart stops at the copious amounts of butter and sugar she uses in her recipes! :D) and her style of fuss-free cooking. The best part of this cake is that it can also be made without prior soaking of the fruit, as it employs the ‘boil & bake’ method where the dry fruits are simmered in a mixture of butter and sugar until the fruits are adequately soused (See ‘tips & tweaks’ section at the end of this post). So if you have no time to soak, you could also make it immediately. Of course, soaking is the best way , as it beautifully plumps up the fruit and brings out its flavours 🙂

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Ever since I found this recipe 7 years ago, this is my go-to recipe for fruitcake, and has not failed me a single time. However, I have gradually made my own modifications to the recipe, depending on how my family likes it. Feel free to experiment. For example, if you don’t want chocolate in the cake (really?!) then you could just omit the cocoa powder from the batter, and you will have a lighter caramel-coloured regular fruitcake. Add more or less of the dry fruits, omit the nuts if you will, use a sugar of your choice etc. – tweak these to suit you, keeping certain basic ingredient quantities unchanged.

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I omitted the eggs, used whole wheat flour in place of all purpose flour, didn’t use almond flour, and did not use any coffee liqueur. I also used fresh orange juice to soak up the dry fruits and nuts, in place of the rum. The recipe called for dark brown muscovado sugar, which is pretty hard to find here. So I substituted organic country brown sugar (naattu sakkarai in Tamil) in its place. Nattu Sakkarai is organic and it is naturally produced by boiling sugar cane juice to a particular consistency, hence has properties that are very beneficial to general health of the body.

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The resultant cake is so complex in flavor, rich owing to the generous use of butter, and has an incredibly velvety and moist crumb! I didn’t miss the eggs at all in this cake. The orange juice beautifully lifts up the cake and adds to its flavor profile. The coffee decoction helps bring out the chocolate flavor in a wonderful way, and the plump juice-soaked fruits just burst in your mouth with a zing that is utterly, utterly delicious! This cake is great after it has stayed at least for 24 hours in the refrigerator. It helps the flavours mature and deepens the complexity of its taste.

Read on for the recipe!

INGREDIENTS

Dry ingredients

  • Atta – 300 g (2 cups)
  • Cocoa powder – 1 tbsp
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 cups organic country brown sugar (300 gm)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder OR 1-inch piece cinnamon bark
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg powder OR grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves OR 2-3 cloves

Wet ingredients

  • Butter – 150 g
  • 75 ml orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp strong coffee decoction
  • Dry fruits mixture
    • 2 tbsp dried cranberries,
    • 2 tbsp dried cherries,
    • 2 tbsp raisins,
    • 2 tbsp walnuts,
    • 2 tbsp almonds,
    • 1/2 cup pitted and chopped medjool dates,
    • 2 tbsp candied orange peel,
    • 200ml fresh orange juice 

METHOD

Soaking the dry fruit

Mix all dried fruit & nuts together one by one. Pour orange juice. Add candied orange peel finally. Mix well & allow to soak for 3 days (keep mixture covered & refrigerated).

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After soaking for 3 days, this is how it will look. See how the fruits have absorbed the juice and plumped up?

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Making the Spice Powder

Take 1/2 a cup of the palm sugar (out of the 1.5 cups), and add the spices. Powder using a spice grinder or mixer. This step is to be done only of you’re using whole spices, as the sugar helps the spices to be powdered uniformly. If using ready powdered spice, skip this step.

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Simmering the dry fruit

  1. Melt the butter on low flame in a kadai.
  2. Add the soaked dry fruits mixture. No need to drain.
  3. Mix well to incorporate the butter and dry fruits.
  4. Add the brown sugar to this mixture.
  5. Stir well until sugar is dissolved (about 30 seconds).
  6. The mixture will be a dark caramel colour now. Switch off the stove and let it cool for 5 minutes.

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Making the Cake Batter

Sift together the wheat flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. I used salted butter, hence did not add salt. Add salt at this stage if using unsalted butter. (clockwise from top right)

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Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, and gently fold into the batter, until evenly incorporated.(clockwise from top right)

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  1. Grease a baking pan of your choice with butter.
  2. Pour the cake batter into the greased pan.
  3. Fill only upto 3/4th capacity.
  4. Transfer to oven on a wire rack. Bake for 40 minutes at 180 deg C in the bake/convection mode.

Assembling & Baking

(clockwise from top right)

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  1. Remove the cake from the oven.
  2. Check doneness by inserting a wooden skewer into the cake.
  3. If it comes out clean without anything sticking to it, the cake’s done.

(clockwise from top right)

2017-11-186Leave to cool overnight, or at least 4-5 hours before unmolding. Cut into slices, put into an airtight container and refrigerate. Keeps well for upto a month, maybe more if you freeze. I’ve never had a chance to find out, because it NEVER seems to last that long in my house! 🙂  Try it and let us know your comments below!

TIPS & TWEAKS

  1. 40 mins baking time was just right for my oven. However, if you find that cake is not done, return to the oven for another 5 or 10 minutes depending on the oven you use. However, I find that it is better to leave this cake slightly underdone, as it firms up when kept in the fridge.
  2. This cake is great eaten cold. It also tastes better as it ages 🙂
  3. You could also use powdered jaggery or palm sugar, should work well in this recipe.
  4. For the NO SOAK method:
    1. Just accumulate all the dry fruits, nuts and orange juice, and simmer along with melted butter and sugar for 10 minutes until fruits are plump.
    2. Allow mixture to cool for 30 mins and then proceed to next steps in the recipe.
  5. Add all palm sugar at once to melted butter mixture if using powdered spices. No need to grind anything.
  6. The butter might seem like a lot, but it really keeps the cake moist and contributes to a rich crumb. You could reduce butter from 150g to 125g at most – but its okay to indulge once in a year 🙂
  7. I didn’t add tutti fruiti to this cake. You could add it during the soaking phase.
  8. Eliminate the chocolate powder to get a light caramel coloured fruitcake.
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