Boozy Holiday Fruit Cake (Eggless) & a Christmas Nostalgia

Boozy holiday rich fruit cake (eggless) with dried cranberries, dates and raisins soaked in red wine for a month!

Christmas in Calcutta is an emotion. While it may ruffle some feathers, I have to admit that Calcutta is probably the most secular city in India which celebrates festivals like Christmas not out of any religious compulsion but because it’s a delightful celebration of life, something that lifts your spirits.

For those of us who grew up in Calcutta, the festival is synonymous with Nahoum’s rich fruit cake. Surprisingly in December the whole city gets busy in Christmas preps, and the Jewish bakeries and neighbourhood confectionaries start selling homemade plum cakes that are made with rum soaked raisins, dates and candied peels. All of a sudden, Ruma kakima’s sleepy bakery in the dusty bylanes of Free School Street is abuzz with activities.

Nahoum’s will remain my most favourite always- their dense and rich fruit cakes are so moist and loaded with dry fruits. This is my ode to their legendary cakes as i reminisce about the bygone Christmas days of my adolescence when I would patiently wait in a long queue outside the store with my mum just to get my share of treats. That was my Santa moment.

The authentic Christmas plum cake/ fruit cake in Calcutta is prepared with dried fruits soaked in rum for a prolonged period and most recipes are handed down through generations. I have used red wine instead and have also used greek yogurt instead of eggs which is honestly unthinkable in the original recipe. But then sometimes it’s okay to deviate from the original and tweak things here and there just for fun, doesn’t take away anything from the classic 🙂

Ingredients:

Chopped dried cranberries, black raisins, sultanas, pitted dates, candied ginger soaked in red wine (or dark rum) for at least 2-3 weeks (the longer the better)

11/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp each of ground cinnamon, clove and nutmeg

1 tbsp orange zest

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup olive oil (or any vegetable oil)

1 cup brown sugar (preferably) or raw cane sugar (no white sugar)

1 cup greek yogurt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup of chopped mixed nuts like almonds, pistachios and cashews

Method:

In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 cup brown sugar. Whisk it well for a couple of minutes until well combined.

Now add the yogurt and vanilla extract and whisk again. It will take a couple of minutes to whisk everything to a smooth consistency.

In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Start with 11/2 cup of all purpose flour. Toss in the ground spices, orange zest (make sure to avoid grating the bitter white pith), baking soda, baking powder and mix everything well with the whisk.

Now throw in the flour mixture into the wet bowl and fold with a spatula. No whisking from this point anymore and also ensure that you don’t overmix the batter. The batter is supposed to be dense and heavy.

The last step is to add the chopped nuts and soaked dried fruits into the cake batter and fold again with the spatula. Reserve some of the soaked fruits for spooning on top of the cake.

Line a square baking pan with a parchment paper and pour in the batter. Sprinkle the remaining soaked dried fruits on top and bake in a pre heated oven at 160 degree C for around 60 minutes. Let it cool down completely before serving.

*Some tips*

Always pack the cake tightly in an aluminum foil to store it. This preserves its shape and moisture.

The cake tastes better with time. The longer it soaks all the goodness from the rum/ wine, the better it tastes.

‘Feed’ the cake with wine/ rum by poking holes all over it with a toothpick and then keep it tightly packed.

Could it get any boozier??

Sponge cake (with dry fruits & chocolate bits)

Freshly baked...straight from the stove top!
Freshly baked…straight from the stove top!

It was quite sometime that I was craving for simple homemade cakes. The market is flooded with its richer varieties- loaded with cream, ganache, fondant & frostings. No doubt they are absolutely lip-smacking & worth indulging on cheat days but for me nothing is as comforting as a warm slice of the humble homemade sponge cake. So I decided to bake one.

But there was a small hurdle to be dealt with at first 😀 I had no oven! & my microwave didn’t have convection mode but I badly wanted to have some cake :/ I quickly flipped through the pages of my recipe diary, hoping to find at least one cake recipe baked in a cooker/ pan & voila!! I had actually noted down a very simple sponge cake recipe by celebrity Indian chef Rakesh Sethi long back & it came to my rescue today 🙂 He baked it in a cooker but I baked mine in a deep bottomed pan. My cooker wasn’t wide enough to place the cake tin inside. Worked perfectly fine, just that took double the time. One thing I can assure you that there couldn’t possibly be any simpler sponge cake recipe that is fantastic to taste as well. Do try it at your home. I slightly modified the recipe to suit my taste & diet needs 😉

So soft and fluffy!
So soft and fluffy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (I used brown)
  • 1/4 cup butter (I used salted butter)
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk (preferably made from whole milk)
  • 1 cup maida/ all purpose flour (I used wholewheat cake flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Milk for batter
  • Almonds, raisins, dark chocolate bits & shavings

Method:

Take a deep bottomed pan & place it on the stove top on low heat. Pour 1 cup salt into the pan. It will act as the base. This is necessary so that your pan doesn’t get burnt & neither does your cake. Now cover with a lid. Make sure there is a small vent/ opening on the lid. If using a cooker, don’t forget to remove the whistle while closing the lid for preheating.

For the batter, take a big bowl. Add sugar, butter & the condensed milk. Mix well using a balloon whisk. Now slowly add in the flour, baking powder & baking soda. Add milk in desired quantity to make the perfect thick batter.

Throw in some chopped almonds, raisins &  chocolate bits & mix well. Grate 2 pieces of dark chocolate (chocolate shavings) and add in the batter.

Now line the cake tin with butter and pour the batter into it. (That rhymed 😀 butter & batter!) Make sure the batter is evenly spread. Now remove the lid from the pan & carefully place the tin inside it as the pan is very hot. Cover with the lid once again. On low heat it will take you around 50 minutes. On a pressure cooker it takes 25-30 minutes as per the chef. Keep checking with a tooth pick or knife after 40 minutes and when it comes out clean your cake is ready!

Enjoy with a cup of freshly brewed tea like I did or as it is. A slice of happiness, a slice of life 🙂

Note: ALWAYS use the same cup for all measurements (whether 1/2, 1/3 or 1)

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