Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Solstice Cake 2008: Rich Chocolate Drambuie Fruit Cake

Fruit Cakes are not just for Christmas
The topic of fruit cake seems to divide people into pro- and anti-fruit cake camps. In my family, Mom, Dad and I love fruit cakes. My sis couldn't care less about fruit cakes - she prefers mince pies. I recall Mom spending hours preparing her fruit cake for festive occasions (not just for Christmas or weddings). My childhood memories of weeks leading up to those special occasions are filled with the wonderful smell of caramelised sugar, which is part of Mom's labour intensive recipe. Her large and rich fruit cake is steamed for hours on the stove, which means she has to regularly check if she needed to add more boiling water to the steamer. Even with her decades of experience making fruit cake, there were odd occasions when her cake does not turn out perfect such as resulting in a soggy consistency. During my annual visit to Singapore to visit my family, Mom always has some of her fruit cake in the freezer ready for me to devour slowly (one small slice a day till it runs out). Fortunately in Sydney, Quikong's grandmother also makes a deliciously moist traditional fruit cake each year for us in time for the Christmas season.

Solstice Cake Event 2008
So really, there has been no need for me to make fruit cakes for myself. But in the spirit of research and prompted mainly by Sydney's current winter weather as well as an Australian blogger, The Food Nazi's inaugural food blogging event Solstice Cake 2008, I decided to make a different sort of fruit cake. I would have loved to try Lucy's version of the Marzipan Solstice Cake, especially since I discovered how easy it was to make my own marzipan last Christmas, or Aimée's Figgy Christmas Fruit Roll, which are full of figs, dark chocolate and spices. Unfortunately, Quikong doesn't like marzipan and I also did not have much time to mess around in the kitchen last week, so I dabbled with this recipe from the Australian Women's weekly instead because it intrigued me. Similar to Aimée's Figgy fruit roll, this cake has chocolate as well as cocoa in fruit cake! This recipe did not require much effort or skill, just time because rich fruit cakes take a long time to bake in a slow oven. I had all the ingredients in the pantry - we eat dried fruit regularly, and yes, I even stock glacé cherries because Quikong loves them.

Rich Chocolate Drambuie Fruit Cake

This quantity of mixture makes one 22cm round cake and 6 individual cakes which are ideal for gift-giving. If you prefer, you can make a large cake from this mixture — use a deep 22cm square or deep 25cm round cake pan and allow about 4 to 4½ hours for baking. This cake can be made three months ahead and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Moist ~ Luscious ~ Goodness

Kitchen Notes
- My substitutions:
Thickly sliced soft & juicy figs (e.g. Angus Park brand) instead of mixed peel
Almonds instead of pecans
Golden syrup instead of honey
- I added 1 tsp vanilla essence and also threw in some ground cinnamon and some freshly grated nutmeg.
- I forgot to add the dates (aarrgh!!), happens to me sometimes with long ingredients lists.
- Omitted: I did not use the browning essence (food colouring)
- Since I have an electric scale, I was able to half the recipe and baked it in a 18cm round cake tin and one mini spring-form tin (9.5cm).
- I set the temperature at 130°C fan-forced (150°C) throughout the baking process. The large cake took about 2.5 hours to bake.

Original recipe below is from the Australian Women's Weekly

2 1/3 cups (375g) sultanas
2¼ cups (375g) raisins, chopped
1 2/3 cups (250g) currants
1½ cups (250g) pitted prunes, chopped
1½ cups (250g) pitted dates, chopped
¾ cup (125g) mixed peel
2/3 cup (140g) red glacé cherries, halved
1 1/3 cups (340ml) Drambuie
1/3 cup (115g) honey
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
250g butter, chopped
1½ cups (300g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
6 eggs
1 tablespoon Queen Parisian browning essence
90g dark chocolate, grated
1¼ cups (125g) pecans, toasted, chopped
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
¼ cup (25g) cocoa powder
extra pecans and glacé cherries, optional

Combine fruit, 1 cup of the Drambuie, honey and rind in a bowl; mix well. Cover and stand overnight or for several days.

Grease 6 (¾ cup/180ml) paper cake moulds (or 6-hole Texas muffin pan). Line base and side of a deep 22cm round cake pan (or deep 19cm square cake pan) with 2 layers of brown paper and 2 layers of baking paper, bringing paper 5cm above the edge of the pan. Preheat the oven to very slow (120°C/100°C fan-forced).

Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until just combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until just combined between additions. Beat in the essence. Add butter mixture to fruit mixture; mix well. Stir in chocolate, nuts, then sifted dry ingredients in two batches; mix well.

Fill the paper cake moulds to within 1cm from the top (fill muffin pans level with top of pan). Spread the remaining cake mixture into prepared cake pan.

Decorate tops with extra nuts and glacé cherries, if desired.

Bake individual cakes in a very slow oven for about 1½ hours or until cooked when tested. Brush hot cakes with some of the remaining Drambuie. Cover hot cakes tightly with foil; cool in pans. Increase oven temperature to slow (150°C/130°C fan-forced). Bake round cake in slow oven for about 3 hours or until cooked when tested. Brush hot cake with Drambuie, cover tightly with foil; cool in pans. Suitable to freeze.

Baby Fruit Cake with Mama Fruitcake

Tasting Notes
The chocolate taste was subtle and compliments the fruits nicely. I enjoyed sinking my teeth into the moist figs and prunes. We usually prefer eating the traditional fruit cake with custard but I was too lazy to make some. Instead, Quikong enjoyed it with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. His only complaint was that it needed more fruits - I couldn't bring myself to tell him that I actually forgot to put in the dates. He doesn't usually read my blog, so I can admit this mistake to all of you :-)

I wonder if the flavours in this cake will develop more with time, just like a traditional fruit cake? But this cake is disappearing fast. This non-traditional fruit cake might even appeal to non-fruit cake lovers.

5-day update: Mmmm....The cake is even more moist and somehow the fruits have gotten sweeter after 5 days. I'll have to hide the rest of the cake from Quikong so that I can test out what happens to the cake when it has more time to rest.... ;-)


Another Outspoken Female said...

The cake sounds delicious. Though it feels challenging to let it mature, like good wine these kinds of cakes really do taste better when they are left alone in the dark for a couple of months!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

My household is definitely in two camps about fruitcake -- Canadian husband is all for it, as he grew up with English parents and that was their tradition; I'm against, because it is just way too sweet for me. But of course we make fruitcakes from time to time, as a compromise!

The Cooking Ninja said...

wow! This cakes looks delicious. :) My MIL loves to make fruit cakes. It's a lot of work but she enjoys it.

Margaret said...

I'm a huge fan of Australian Women's Weekly cookery books, they really do know how to produce good recipes.
I have to say I have never heard of Solstice Cake, but it looks very rich and moist.

Coffee & Vanilla said...


I don't really like cakes with dried fruits and peel, but your cake looks really delicious... I love how you used autumn leaves! Beautiful :)

Have a nice day, Margot

Kevin said...

That cake looks nice and moist and rich and good!

Stella (Sweet Temptations) said...

I don't usually like fruit cakes but I have to admit that yours is truly beautiful & delish!

KJ said...

Hi Nora, I'm afraid I am in the anti-fruit cake camp. But if anything could tempt me it would be good dose of chocolate.

Nora B. said...

Hi Ladies and Gents,
I didn't realise that there were that many anti-fruit cake people out there! More for me, I guess ;-)

Thanks for commenting even though this cake may not be everyone's cup of tea.

x Nora

Lucy said...

Nora, I USED to be a member of the anti-fruitcake brigade...but after the event, I have made three more of my cake...the latest version, made without alcohol, is sitting in the pantry rght now!

Yours is fabulous - DRAMBUIE!!! (yum) - and I reckon you should hide it. Cook's treat! It's the wait, as the cake matures, that seems so painful.

Can you ever imagine yourself making it during summer though?

Eva said...

As you know, I'm also belonging to the anti-fruit-cake people but if you include chocolate, dates, and prunes (and leave out peel and glace cherries), I might be persuaded to give it a try..;-)

Bellini Valli said...

I am in the "yes" camp for fruitcake. I used to make a two layered version but haven't in years. My parents even had a fruitcake brought in when I was married.

Lysy said...

I had to come and have a look after seeing your cake on AOF's solstice roundup. What a great sounding offering! The chocolate and figs both sound like extra specially good additions, and the little one is so cute!

docwitch said...

ooooh..choc, drambuie, fruit cake. A divine trinity as far as I'm concerned. It wouldn't stand a chance of maturing in my house though.

Cynthia said...

Oh my goodness! This cake looks so great!

I am in the camp where the fruits must all be blended (pureed) I don't want to bite into anything :)

Big Boys Oven said...

wow! looks like christmas is coming soon! love you cake sounds so delicious and so classic!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

My husband would devour this! It looks heavenly.

Ruth said...

Hi Nora

Mmmm... yum! Your fruitcake looks delicious and reminds me of my childhood and my mum :-)

maybelles parents said...

I have bookmarked this. I am sitting here planning to glacee fruit and this would be perfect.