I love winter and it’s not just about the crisp cold, the bonfires, snug woollies, and stylish boots. It’s also about the joy of festivals, traditions, family gatherings, and time spent in the company of close friends who have become family. This winter is extra special; it’s one filled with immense gratitude, after the stress and paranoia of the pandemic. This year, a sparkling Diwali in November has fittingly paved the way for Christmas cake in December, and the anticipation is already building up!
It’s that time of the year, folks, time to soak the fruit for your Christmas Cake, if you haven’t already, that is. People across the globe have different timelines for soaking their fruit, and there are overnight soaks as well, so don’t stress over this step at all. In general, fruits are soaked at least 4-6 weeks before you bake your cake, but if you are running late, I have listed what you can do last minute in Tips & Tricks.
So why do we need to soak the fruits at all, you ask? Well, a traditional Christmas cake is rich, dark, moist. When dry fruits are soaked, they absorb the liquid and become plump. During the baking process, some of the liquid oozes out into the cake batter, resulting in a moist and flavourful cake.
I make fruit soaking an experience to cherish with some lovely Christmas music and a glass or two of wine to set the mood. Nothing looks better than a colorful array of beautiful dried fruit, a bottle of good rum, bourbon, or brandy and shiny glass jars patiently waiting for their turn. The only real effort is in the shopping and chopping!
Here’s a list of what I usually buy and the proportions I use, but hey, just have fun – you go out there and buy the combinations you love!
100g golden raisins (buy on TFN Store)
100g dried cherries/glazed cherries (buy here)
100g seedless black raisins (buy on TFN Store)
100g dried kiwi (buy here)
100g dried apricots (buy on TFN Store)
100g dried pineapple (buy here)
50g pitted prunes or figs (buy on TFN Store)
50g dried cranberries/currants or both (buy here)
50g candied orange or lemon peel
50g candied ginger
50g dried papaya (buy here)
Go to town! You can also try seedless dates, dried figs, dried mango, dried apple, blueberries, or plums. Now just de-seed or de-stem the fruit if needed and chop them up into small even pieces.
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
Rum, bourbon, or brandy to cover the fruit. Some people use Sherry as well.
1 tsp mixed spice, or nutmeg powder, cinnamon powder, and clove powder to taste.
Some people add nuts to this mixture, I never do. The nuts turn soggy. I add nuts directly into the cake batter.
The Long Soak
Now the fun part. Soaking fruit may be the easiest thing ever, but you can do it with the flair of a Master Chef! Amidst the occasional sips of wine, toss the chopped fruit in turn into a large glass bowl. Sprinkle the spice mix, then gently pour the orange juice and rum, bourbon, or brandy in. Mix everything together thoroughly as you savor the combined aromas – a promise of your cake to come! Transfer this mixture into a clean, dry, sterile glass or ceramic jars. Cover and keep in a cool dark place in your kitchen. Stir the fruit once a week with a clean dry spoon.
Tips and Tricks
- If you had no time, and everything is last minute, then soak for fruit for 1-2 weeks or even 1-2 days in advance of baking your cake. But then make sure you touch up with alcohol (poke holes in the cake with a toothpick and sprinkle with rum or brandy) at least once a week till Christmas.
- For a non-alcoholic soak, use freshly squeezed orange juice or a combination of orange and cranberry juice, or apple juice or a dark tea infusion (Darjeeling is good) with a tablespoon of honey. 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.
- Never ever use fresh fruit for Christmas cake, it will change texture and turn the cake soggy.
- Don’t overload on the citrus peel, it will make the cake turn bitter.
- In general, there should be more of the milder flavoured fruit and less of the stronger flavoured fruit.
- You can use any leftover soaked fruit as a topping for ice creams or pancakes.
Getting excited already? Christmas is not a day, it’s a whole season! And all of us at TFN is counting on you to enjoy every bit of it with us!
Have a wonderful time, folks!
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A homeschooled chef even before she joined Catering College in Bombay, Christine’s gastronomic journey started with mother and grandmother. Polished with a degree and 10 years of experience in the Hospitality industry, Christine’s love of food, drink and everything gastronomic has been sharpened and honed with travel across the world. Today, she shares the wealth of her foodie experience and adventures across the world with The Foodie Network, so look forward to much more from Chrsitine!