Friday, 18 January 2013

Ashleigh's Holiday Survival Cake

I realise I am late posting this, but I'll never remember to do it next Christmas, and I think the cake is very multi-seasonal. Anne would like to serve it at our annual Jane Austen Tea Party in the spring, though perhaps under an alias.

A few years ago, my mother-in-law Gayle invited me to help her with the annual Christmas Cake extravaganza. The day when she bakes about 15 loaves of fruit cake. The recipe was handed down to her from her mother-in-law, and with each passing down substitutions and alterations are encouraged to suit personal preference.

I am no fruit cake snob. I love it all. I know I'm not supposed to love candied cherries, but I do. Despite this, I decided that my alterations would be healthy ones. Gayle's recipe called for 3 lbs of candied cherries. I swapped out all of them for dried fruit soaked over night in liquor (to make up for the syrup that the cherries are in). The green and red of traditional Christmas Cake comes from the dried cherries, cranberries, green raisins and pumpkin seeds. I also swapped sour cream for Greek yogurt for extra protein.

Every year, my sister Angela comes up with some hair-brained scheme to save money over the holidays. It usually involves me having to cook or bake something that she can give away to all of her friends. Luckily, we have many mutual friends, so it is of some help to me too. This year I suggested the fruit cake wrapped in reusable wrap made of cotton fabric and beeswax.

This was a week long affair. I had to make about 40 cakes to satisfy Angela's list of friends and still have some left to serve my guests.

Anne was quite insistent that I name my cake in order to make it my own. It wasn't much easier than naming my baby! Angela made some passing comment about "the survival loaf" and then it hit me how hilarious of a name that would be - as we were delivering to friends on December 21st, 2012. Happily we all survived the end of the world, and I like to think that the Holiday Survival Cake played a small part in that.

I also got to use my early Christmas present - the Kitchenaid stand mixer.
Weighing fruit beside the beautiful mixer.
This is a fairly forgiving recipe, as long as similar proportions of wet and dry ingredients are used, it will probably work out fine!

Makes about 15 mini loafs (perfect size to give away to fruit cake loving friends)

  • Just under 3 lbs of dried fruit (I use apricot chunks, date chunks, dried cherries, dried cranberries)
  • 1 lb raisins (golden or green look nice)
  • Enough liquor or juice of your choice to bring the weight of dried fruit and raisins up to 4 lbs and plump the fruit a bit (I used about a cup of rum and/or Grand Marnier)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • Approximately 4 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 lb nuts (pecans or walnuts, replace some with pumpkin seeds to add green colour and extra protein)
  • I lb softened butter
  • 10 eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1 pint Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 1 jar crabapple jelly
  • 1 can unsweetened crushed pineapple
  • 2 tsp vanilla

I doubled the recipe and had to mix everything in a huge canning pot.
  1. Mix all the dried fruit and raisins in a very large bowl
  2. Stir in juice or liquor
  3. Sprinkle with spices and mix
  4. Cover the surface of fruit with plastic wrap and let sit overnight so spices and liquid thoroughly mix with the fruit. Stir it once in a while.
  5. Preheat oven to 275
  6. Sprinkle flour over the fruit and stir until fruit is coated and separated – it might take more or less than 4 cups.
  7. Sprinkle baking soda and powder over fruit and mix
  8. Stir in nuts/seeds (save some to sprinkle on top right before baking)
  9. Mix the following with electric mixer ( or an arm with lots of endurance): butter, eggs, honey, molasses, yogurt, jelly, pineapple, and vanilla
  10. Pour wet mixture over the fruit and stir until well mixed
  11. Grease bakeware or line with parchment paper
  12. Fill bakeware until 2/3 full
  13. Sprinkle the top with left over nuts/seeds, brown sugar and sea salt (all of this is optional)
  14. Bake at 275 until the centre springs back (1-2 hours)

I would also like to try adding ginger!

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