Calcutta Christmas Fruitcake
The tradition of eating Christmas cakes in Calcutta is an old one, popularised by bakers like Nahoum and Saldanha.
Fruitcakes are a big deal in Calcutta. Come Christmas, shops spring up all over the city selling Christmas cakes, or ‘Borodin’er cake’. The tradition of baking, gifting, and eating plum cakes around Christmas is an old one. Families celebrating Christmas in Kolkata soak their dried fruits weeks in advance and book their slots with their local bakers for community baking of their cakes. Making a Christmas fruitcake at home is easy, to say nothing of rewarding. Such fruitcakes contain their characteristic booze-soaked fruits and nuts, which can be customised in dozens of ways. In this recipe, we show you how to bake an indulgent Christmas fruitcake at home.
We like our Christmas cake as a good-sized loaf. A 9 × 4 inch (25 × 11 cm) rectangular loaf tin perfectly holds our batter for a 4-pound cake. This is a deep tin, which produces a hefty fruitcake that can be portioned into slices. However, since such a tin is so deep and narrow, we’ve taken some special precautions to ensure that the cake (a) rises evenly, (b) doesn’t crack or dome on the top, (c) cooks to a rich brown colour right up to the centre, without (d) the sides drying out during its long stint in the oven.
- Butter the inside of the tin, making sure to get into all the corners.
- Line the tin with two sheets of baking paper as shown in the video, leaving about 5 cm excess overhanging paper on both sides for easier cae removal later on.
- Optionally, wrap a cake strip to the outside of the tin for added protection. You can easily make a cake strip at home as follows:
- Measure the circumference and height of your tin.
- Cut a sheet of newspaper about 4–5 times as wide as the height of your tin and long enough to wrap around it.
- Keep folding the newspaper into a strip as wide as the height of the tin.
- Wet this strip with water, squeezing out any excess.
- Cover the whole strip in aluminium foil.
- Wrap it around the tin and secure it with a piece of wet cotton twine.
This cake bakes at a low temperature of 150°C. In a deep and narrow loaf tin like the one we’re using here, it takes around 3.5 hours. If you try to bake this cake faster by raising the temperature, the outside will brown while the inside remains pale and undercooked. Having said that, keep in mind that every oven is different. Be sure to check on your cake after the first 2 hours in the oven.
COOKING TIME 4 hours (including 3 hours of oven time)
YIELDS 4-pound cake (serves 20–25 people)
CALORIES 316 kcal per serving
|SOAKING THE FRUITS|
|150 g||Pitted dates|
|100 g||Dried apricots|
|100 g||Tutti frutti|
|100 g||Crystallised ginger|
|125 g||Orange/mixed peels|
|180 ml||Dark rum/whiskey/brandy|
|BAKING THE CAKE|
|275 g||Salted butter (softened; extra for greasing)|
|275 g||Brown sugar|
|From one orange||Orange zest|
|15 pcs||Allspice berries (optional)|
- Mixing bowl
- Balloon whisk
- 9 × 4 inch rectangular loaf tin
- Greaseproof baking paper
- Aluminium foil (optional)
- Weighing scale
- OTG or convection oven (you can’t bake this in microwave mode)
- Grinder | spice grinder | mortar and pestle
- Chop dates, apricots, ginger, and orange peels into 1 cm chunks.
- Put the chopped dates, apricots, ginger, and orange peels along with the raisins, and the tutti frutti into an airtight glass jar.
- Pour 180 ml of dark rum (we are using Old Monk), or brandy, or whiskey or a mixture into the jar over the fruits.
- Shut the jar and leave it in a cool, dark place for 20 days. Give the jar a mild shake every couple of days.
- Grind the cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice to a fine powder. Also grind up the almonds separately. Set these aside.
- Zest an entire orange, making sure not to grate any of the white pith as it is bitter. Chop up the cashew and pistachio into 5 mm pieces.
- Prepare the tin as explained above and set your oven to preheat at 150°C.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until it is airy and pale. Add in the brown sugar and cream again.
- Now whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Follow this with the ground almond, spice mix, and orange zest. Incorporate everything thoroughly. Get rid of your whisk; you won’t need it after this point.
- Sift in the flour and fold it in using a rubber spatula. Make sure to not overmix the batter after you add the flour as the cake may turn chewy.
- Add the chopped cashew and pistachio. Also add your rum-soaked dried fruits. The fruits should have absorbed all the alcohol, but if they contain excess liquid, strain and add just the fruits.
- Mix everything until well combined, but don’t overwork the batter.
- Spoon the batter into your prepared cake tin, pushing it into all the corners and leveling the top. Tap out any trapped air bubbles.
- Place it in the preheated oven and bake for 3.5 hours, checking on it regularly after the first 2 hours. Your cake is done when a thermometer inserted in the centre registers a temperature of 95°C, or when a skewer comes out clean. Your cake should develop a rich brown colour.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the tin. This should take about 5 hours or so.
- Feed the cake: This step is optional. Poke holes in the cake with a skewer. ‘Feed’ a spoon of rum, brandy, or whisky through the holes. You can do this once a week for as long as you want, until you are ready to cut the cake. Store it at room temperature wrapped in baking paper and aluminium foil.
- A cup of Darjeeling or coffee
- Mulled wine