By October, most hotels and bakeries in Kochi hold elaborate private fruit mixing ceremonies for making the traditional Christmas Plum Cake. Most families soak their dry fruits in brandy or rum for a month or at least for several days. The following recipe uses a short cut - warm the fruits soaked in brandy or rum for ten to twelve minutes over low heat before soaking it overnight.
1 cup raisins
1 cup pitted and chopped dates
¼ cup candied Orange and Lemon peel
¼ cup brandy or dark rum
1 cup unsalted cashew nuts
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks of butter
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons of granulated sugar (To make caramelized syrup)
A few drops of fresh lemon juice (To make caramelized syrup)
4 medium sized eggs separated
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
¼ teaspoon nutmeg powder
¼ teaspoon cloves powder
¼ teaspoon dry Ginger powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons of brandy for soaking the cakes
Dice the fruits and nuts and place them in a saucepan and pour brandy/rum and mix well. Heat the pan over low heat for ten to twelve minutes to steam the fruits in brandy/rum. (In the traditional recipe fruits are soaked in brandy/rum for several days at room temperature). Remove the pan from the stove and keep it at room temperature over night.
Preheat the oven to 325 degree F. Grease two cake loaf pans and line them with parchment paper. Grease the paper with butter.
Place granulated sugar in a saucepan and add 3 tablespoons of water. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Turn the stove to high and place the pan on the stove and let it boil. Don’t stir the contents at all. As sugar melts and caramelizes, you may swirl the pan a bit once or twice. When the sugar has caramelized and has a golden color remove from the stove and set aside. It darkens in a few minutes. Very carefully add 1/2 cup of boiling water to the caramel. Continue cooking till it looks dark and syrupy. Remove from the stove and place in a large pan of simmering water. This helps to keep the caramel from hardening.
Eggs and butter should be at room temperature. Cream butter until it is fluffy. Stir in powdered sugar and mix well. Add egg yolks to the creamed butter one at time, while continuing to stir. Pour vanilla extract and stir well. Combine flour, baking powder,cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger and add to the batter and mix thoroughly. Stir in the brandy/rum soaked fruits and the hot caramel sauce and stir well.
Whip egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the cake batter. Pour the batter into the cake loaf pans and bake at 325 degrees F for an hour until the top is nicely browned and a tooth pick or fork inserted into the cake comes out clean. If necessary, bake for another five to ten minutes until the cake is well baked. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Remove from the pan and place it on a cooling rack. Pierce the cake with toothpick, and pour brandy (about 3 tablespoon on each) on top and let it soak. This will enhance the flavor and extend the shelf life of the cake. Before storing, cover the cake completely with wax paper first, and then with aluminum foil.