Saturday, December 27, 2014

Festive fruit cake

As is my usual practice, I made my traditional sugee cake this Christmas, plus some mince pies.  Plus my mother made her shortbread.  But I felt that it was time for something new.  So, I decided that this year would be the year I tackled fruit cake! Fruit cake is another Eurasian Christmas classic, a British tradition handed down to the local community in Singapore.  But, I never got round to making it even though my mother continued to get a commercial cake (normally the Lion's Club charity cake) every year.

So I started checking recipes.  I looked through Mrs Ellice Handy's book for her recipe, but was totally bowled over by the amount of fruit (almost 2kg worth) and the fact that the recipe was for 3 medium loaf tins!  Of course, I could have just divided the recipe by 3 and baked just a single loaf.  But considering that this was my first attempt, decided to play it very safe, and use Nigella Lawson's traditional fruit cake recipe from her "Domestic Goddess" cookbook.  Nigella has generally been pretty reliable, at least for the recipes I've used.  And this particular recipe gives the different quantities for different fruit cake sizes.

And indeed, I think it turned out quite well, as the photo indicates.  There was still masses of fruit in the recipe, but I thought that the end result was quite moist, full of sherry-soaked raisins and mixed fruit.  It smelt wonderful too!

I can't seem to find the original recipe online, but Nigella has provided a slightly modified version hereThe main difference, as she says, is that she upped the alcohol content and replaced some of the fruit with chopped pecans.  I can live with that :-)  On my part, I normally cut the sugar content by about one-third since I'm not too keen on sweet cakes. The original recipe also called for marmalade, rather than treacle, a substitution I'll probably stick to as I don't really use treacle for other dishes and we are huge fans of breakfast marmalade in this house. 

So maybe this is a cake to come back to again in future years.  The other good thing with fruit cake, of course, is that it has to be made in advance, so it doesn't really add to the hustle and bustle of Christmas.   

One small thing to end with.  For the first time ever, I heard about a "sugee fruit cake" which one of my colleague makes.  Coincidentally, my aunt received one from a Malaysian friend and we ate it at my cousin's Christmas dinner. I must say it is a denser, heavier cake than our traditional fruit cake.  But it interested me, this fusion between the two Christmas classics.  So I looked it up on line and it seems indeed to be quite common in Malaysia, but the origins seem to go back to that island in the Indian Ocean , where other semolina-based cakes have come from.  Here's the recipe I spotted, for anyone who'd like to give it a try and then report how it turns out so I can figure out if I want to do it too!

And of course - Merry Christmas, everyone!

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