Christmas Cake Part 1: Soaking the Dry Fruits
Have you soaked your Dry Fruits yet? If you want to enjoy a fabulous, moist, cake full of roasted nuts, fragrant spices and luscious soaked dry fruits on Christmas Day, now is the time to start!
Traditional Christmas fruitcake is very moist and delicate cake with mild spices and fully loaded with juicy dry fruits and nuts. In fact the core ingredients of this cake are different dried fruits with nuts & raisins. Flour & other ingredients are only used to bind these fruits together. The one and only trick is to keep the fruits moist and juicy before baking. For that fruits need to be soaked in alcohol (preferable brandy; rum. sherry also works well) properly for 1 month or upto a year. You can also soak the fruits in fruit juice for non alcoholic version.
It is also very important to allow the cake to be matured by feeding the same alcohol which has been used to soak the fruits till Christmas.
The choice of fruits and the proportions in the recipe below are similar for soaking in alcohol or in an non alcoholic liquid, and I have given the steps for both types. The timelines do differ, as well as how to preserve the fruits for the cake till it is baked.
When to Soak The Fruits for Christmas Fruit Cake?
There are 4 possible broad timelines you can follow to soak fruits for Christmas fruit cake. Of course there are many variations to this, and you can find your own comfort timeline as you get into the regular practice of making the Christmas cake each year.
- Some people, start right in February or March, and bake the cake in the last week of November, or 5-6 weeks before Christmas, keeping it moist by drip feeding the cake with alcohol every week till Christmas.
- The most popular method is to soak the fruits 3 months ahead of December, that is, in early September. The cake is then baked in the last week of November, and kept moist by adding a little alcohol every week till Christmas.
- In the third of the popular time lines, the fruits are soaked about 5-6 weeks before Christmas, ie in the last fortnight of November, and baked a week before Christmas. This cake needs alcohol to be added just once, mid week before Christmas Day.
- The short cut method if you need to make the cake without too much time for the soaking? Soak fruits for Christmas fruit cake about a month before Christmas – in the last week of November, but this time the soaking is just overnight. The next day, bake the cake, and touch up with alcohol once a week. Some people prefer this method, as the fruits are soaked but not overwhelmingly so.
- Orange juice or dark tea or other non-alcoholic liquid? Soak the fruits about 15 days before Christmas, and store in a covered air tight container in the fridge till you bake the cake a week before Christmas.
What fruits are best for a Christmas cake?
Here are my suggestions on what fruits to add when you soak fruits for Christmas cake:
- Black Raisins and sultanas – raisins are the dark dried grapes, while sultanas are the golden ones.
- Currants -black or red
- Orange and Lemon peel – candied or plain (see kitchen hints, below)
- Dried Dates – seedless, soft
- Dried Figs
- Dried Apricots
- Other dried fruits – Prunes, Glazed cherries, Mango, Papaya, Apple, Pineapple , Blueberries, Plum etc.
Some recipes also call for nuts to be soaked. I don’t see the point, as I want the nuts to be crisp and hence I will be adding them directly to the cake batter.
1. For soaking purpose only glass jar/bowls should be used as alcohol might react with other materials.
2.Generally I prefer to cut the sultanas and currents into halves and other fruits into quarters depending on their size.
3. Within one (or two) day the amount of alcohol will be reduced (depending on how dry your area is). Don’t panic; it’s natural because fruits will absorb the alcohol.
4. If you cover the open surface of the container with clingfilm tightly and then cover with the lid. It will ensure the container as air tight.
5. Make sure the fruit soaked container doesn’t get direct sunlight at all.
6. It is preferable to stir/shake the soaked fruits to keep them moist evenly. Otherwise the uncovered fruits will dry up. Add ¼ cup more brandy (or the alcohol you are using) at a time into the mixture, if needed.
MAKING THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS CAKE PART 1: SOAKING THE DRY FRUITS
- 50 grams Dates chopped
- 50 grams Black Currant
- 50 grams Dried Black Berries
- 50 grams Prune chopped
- 50 grams Dried Apricot chopped
- 50 grams Dried Mango chopped
- 50 grams Dried Pineapple chopped
- 50 grams Golden Raisins
- 50 grams Dried Kiwi chopped
- 50 grams Cherries
- 50 grams Tutti Frutti
- 50 grams Dried Papaya chopped
- 10 grams Candied Ginger chopped
- 10 grams Orange Peel chopped
- 10 grams Lemon Peel chopped
- 150 ml Black Grape Juice
- 150 ml Orange Juice
- Sort out the dried fruit, removing stalks and checking that the fruits are clean and dry. Slice the fruits to the size of black currants or to about 1 cm, keeping the slices uniform as much as possible. Slice the dates a little larger.
- In a clean, dry glass jar, add the chopped dry fruits and the juices and mix well together with a wooden spoon.
- Seal the jar and keep in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
- If using non alcoholic soaking liquid, store the container of soaked fruit in the fridge until its time to bake the cake. Alcohol soaked fruit may be kept at room temperature (unless its very hot outside) as the alcohol itself acts as a preservative. However store the container in a dark place.
Cooking with lots of love and straight from the heart.
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