Aunty Kuppu’s fabulous fruitcake

Here’s another fabulous recipe from our late Aunty Kuppu (she of Christmas pickle fame).

The original recipe contained, shockingly, 28 eggs. Aunty Kuppu said it would be fine to halve the recipe, since the original produced four large cakes. Still, 28 ÷ 4 = 7, which seems a lot for one cake. Anyway, I went with it, baking this in a large roasting tin.

Don’t be alarmed by the length of the recipe. It has lots of ingredients, but isn’t that difficult. If you get everything ready to marinate overnight, the next day is easy – you just need a strong arm to stir the stodgy, almost solid mix. 

Ingredients

  • 14 eggs
  • 10 oz sugee
  • 10 oz butter
  • 1 lb castor sugar
  • 4 oz cashew nuts
  • 6 oz sultanas
  • 6 oz raisins
  • 4 oz ground almonds
  • 4 oz glace cherries
  • 3 oz ginger preserve (I just used dried glace ginger from a packet)
  • 3 oz mixed peel
  • brandy
  • 1 + 1 tsp rose essence
  • 1 + 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • ¼ + ¼ tsp almond essence
  • ¼ + ¼ tsp lemon essence (I used a squirt of lemon juice instead)
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp plain flour to coat fruit so it doesn’t sink to the bottom of the cake
  • 4 tbsp brandy + half the essences to marinate fruit
  • 4 tbsp brandy + half the essences + spices to bake – Aunty Kuppu’s handwritten notes specifies these “must be in good-flavoured condition” and that you should pound the spices at home yourself. I didn’t, though – devotion to heritage recipes can only go so far.
  •  2 tbsp brandy + more to wrap up fruit cake.

Method:

All the fruit should be chopped the night – or more nights – before you make the cake. Mix these with the ground almonds and cashews. Add half the essences and brandy, stirring well. Stop to inhale, briefly, the scent of paradise. Then sprinkle in the 2 tbsp flour as recommended. Mix well, cover tightly and leave overnight.

One hour before mixing the cake (or the night before), toast the sugee in a pan. Toss or fry it in a wok over moderate heat.  (The original recipe added “till hot and fluffy”, but I do not know what that means.) Turn off and fold in the butter to melt. Leave aside to cool.

And then:

  • Beat yolks of eggs well and add the sugar gradually, beating all the time.
  • Beat in the sugar and butter and add remaining essences and spices, brandy and a dessertspoon of ginger syrup or ginger juice.
  • Beat 5 egg whites stiff and leave to stand while you mix in the fruit.
  • Lastly fold in sufficient egg white to give a thick dropping consistency. Pour into a large tin which has been double-lined with buttered paper and bake in a moderate oven for about 2 ½ to 3 hours. Avoid thumping or shaking the tin

I did wonder how stiff egg whites could survive in such a heavy cake. But, it actually worked – in fact the finished cake had some air bubbles in it.

Temperature (slow baking)

Bake at 175 C for 20 mins, 160 for 40 mins, then 150 C for 60 mins + 15 mins + 15 mins as needed. Total baking time is 2 to 2 ¼ to 2 ½ hours. Put down to lowest shelf and cover with thin cardboard if it browns too quickly. Test with skewer to see when cake is well-baked.

After making this, I realized it was, give or take a bit of semolina, very similar to Charmaine Solomon’s Sri Lankan “Traditional Christmas Cake” from her Complete Asian Cookbook. This type of cake appeared every Christmas in family circles when I was growing up. My mum did a less elaborate version using boxes of Big Sister Dried Fruit from the local provision shop, but with the fiendishly lengthy task – usually outsourced to us girls – of mincing the fruit finely by hand.

I suspect Aunty Kuppu meant for us to do the same, but I only did a little light chopping of the largest bits before tossing everything in to marinate.

I also did not bake it for as long as it says in the recipe, mainly because I was desperate to go to bed. After an hour and a half of baking time, I turned the oven off without peeking, leaving the cake in there till morning. You can see what resulted, inside and out:

See the tiny air bubbles on the surface of the cake?

It was less dark than my childhood memory of such cakes, and without the slightly scorched flavor that was perhaps unavoidable in the fiercer, spottier heat of our old gas oven. I liked it, though. Here’s a close-up:

Once cool, I punctured it all over with the fine twin points of a corn cob holder – any skewer would do though. Then I painted it all over with some more brandy before leaving it to rest the feeding frenzy. We enjoyed it over the last weekend before the children went back to school, and I’ve saved a slab of this in the fridge just to see how it matures.

Tomorrow I’ll blog the other, quite different type of fruitcake that we made over the festive season.

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3 responses

    • This is my favorite fruitcake ever. I guess because it resembles so much the type of fruitcake that I grew up with – spicy, fragrant, with that slightly ‘crisp’ semolina taste. Next time I do it, though, I think I’ll go for a bit longer baking time – to be honest, I even like the hint of scorching on top – which is how ours at home always turned out.

  1. This is a fabulous recipe & the fruit cake turned out beautiful, definately reminded me of the Christmas cake I grew up with.. thank you so much for sharing.. Merry Christmas..

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