Three recipes for Christmas fruit cake: traditional, an Asian twist and a booze-free version

It will be Christmas in less than a month, but there is still time to soak dried fruit in rum or brandy to make the perfect fruit cake. Here are recipes for a traditional fruit cake, one with an Asian twist and a booze-free, kid-friendly cake. Eunice Quek and Kenneth Goh report

Traditional fruit cake

Mrs Rose Eng, 66, housewife

This adventurous baker turns out unusual treats such as curry chiffon cakes. but for Christmas, she prefers to stick to tradition with a rum-soaked fruit cake.

Her recipe comes from a cooking class she attended 30 years ago and she still refers to the now-yellowed recipe sheet.

The grandmother of six says: "Since I bake fruit cakes only once a year, I'd rather stick to a tried-and-tested recipe. The alcohol in the cakes ensures they can be kept longer and enhances the taste of the fruit."

Her recipe yields four 1kg cakes, so they become Christmas gifts too. Every year, she bakes 20 fruit cakes for her family and church friends.

She says with a laugh: "It is a good gift to bless others as I do not need to think of what presents to buy for them. Every year, they can expect a fruit cake from me."

Kenneth Goh

INGREDIENTS

1.3kg dried fruit mix

250ml rum, plus more for drizzling

6 Tbs white sugar

12 Tbs evaporated milk

560g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

3 tsp mixed spice (rempah kueh)

1/2 tsp salt

300g walnuts, coarsely chopped

500g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

350g brown sugar

8 large eggs

1 Tbs vanilla extract

125g green glazed cherries, halved

125g red glazed cherries, halved

100g whole almonds

2 Tbs apricot jam

METHOD

1. Combine the dried fruit and 250ml of rum in a bowl and set aside for at least two days at room temperature.

2. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 150 deg C and line four 15cm round cake tins with parchment paper.

3. In a saucepan set over medium heat, add white sugar and 4 Tbs of water. Bring mixture to a boil to caramelise the sugar. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a minute before pouring in the evaporated milk. Place the pan over low heat and stir until the mixture bubbles. Set aside.

4. Sift flour, baking powder, mixed spice (rempah kueh) and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.

5. Mix the chopped walnuts with the soaked fruit and 9 Tbs of the flour mixture.

6. Cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla extract and pour the caramel sauce gradually into the batter. Add the remaining flour mixture.

7. Pour the batter into the bowl containing the dried fruit and walnuts and mix well.

8. Distribute batter among the four cake tins and level the tops with a spatula.


ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

9. Decorate the cakes with red and green glazed cherries and almonds (pictured).

10. Bake for 21/2 hours. If the tops of the cakes get too brown, cover with aluminium foil. To check if the cakes are ready, insert a skewer into their centres. They are cooked when the skewer comes out clean.

11. Cool the cakes, still in their tins. When they are completely cool, turn them out (top facing down) onto a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Use a skewer to poke holes in the cakes and drizzle 5 to 6 tsp of rum over each cake. Flip them onto plates.

12. Mix the apricot jam with 2 Tbs of water in a saucepan, simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, add 1 Tbs of rum and stir. Brush the glaze on top of the cakes.

Makes four 1kg cakes


Non-alcoholic fruit cake

Mr Joseph Lim, 44, freelance writer and English tutor

Not all Christmas fruit cakes have to be soaked in alcohol to taste good.

Mr Lim's non-alcoholic version is not only suitable for kids, but also good for those who want to pack in protein, as he uses almond flour and egg whites in the recipe.

Some twists include adding cocoa powder as well as candied ginger for "extra zing".

He says: "I've always loved fruit cake because it makes Christmas meals festive. But store-bought fruit cake is always too sweet. This wheat-free and protein-rich version is denser, but still moist and, most importantly, guilt-free."

The fruit cake is an annual feature at his family's Christmas gatherings and the avid cook bakes for his friends too.

Eunice Quek

INGREDIENTS

300g dried figs, chopped into bite-sized chunks

100g sultanas

100g candied ginger

200g butter

90g jaggery (unrefined cane or palm sugar) or gula melaka

90ml honey

1 tsp ground mixed spice (a blend of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice)

2 Tbs cocoa powder

6 egg whites

200g almond flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

METHOD

1. Preheat the oven to 150 deg C.

2. Place the figs, sultanas, candied ginger, butter, jaggery, honey, mixed spice and cocoa powder in a pot over medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Remove from heat, scoop the mixture into a large bowl and set aside to cool for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

5. In another bowl, mix the almond flour, baking powder and baking soda.

6. With a spatula, fold the egg whites into the fruit mixture in three batches. Then fold in the flour mixture in three batches.

7. Grease a 28cm-long rectangle loaf tin. Pour the batter in and bake for 45 minutes. To check if the cake is ready, insert a skewer into its centre. It is cooked when the skewer comes out clean.

8. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack before removing from the tin and serving.


Fruit cake with dried longans and brandy-marinated fruit

Mr Sam Chek, 41, pastry chef from One Farrer Hotel & Spa


ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Chef Chek's top tip for making Christmas fruit cake is to blanch the dried fruit first, instead of adding them to the batter directly.

This step not only rehydrates the fruit and removes impurities, but also helps them absorb the alcohol.

While it is ideal for the fruit to soak for three months for a robust alcohol flavour, bakers can get by with a 24-hour soak.

After the cake is baked and completely cool, pour extra brandy over it so it retains moisture and has an extra alcoholic oomph.

For an Asian twist, chef Chek adds wolfberries and dried longans. "These ingredients go very well with the rest of the dried fruit," he says. "When you pack so many ingredients in the cake, you get the feeling of a bountiful Christmas."

And if you do not feel like baking the cake, it is available at the hotel's One Farrer Confectionery (tel: 6705-7825, last day of order Dec 25) at $38 for a 700g cake.

Eunice Quek

INGREDIENTS

50ml rum

100ml brandy

100ml orange juice

50g dried orange peel, diced

50g dried apricot, diced

50g dried pineapple, diced

50g dried apple, diced

50g dried mango, diced

50g dried cranberries

22g dried longans

50g golden raisins

50g sultanas

22g wolfberries

270g all-purpose flour

4g baking powder

175g butter

135g brown sugar

180g eggs

METHOD

1. In a bowl, mix the rum, 50ml of the brandy and orange juice together. Set aside.

2. Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch all the dried fruit for a few minutes. Drain well and place the ingredients in a bowl. Pour the rum mixture over and leave to soak in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 150 deg C.

4. Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large bowl. Set aside.

5. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. With the machine on, slowly add the eggs. Add half the flour mixture.

6. Add the remaining flour mixture to the drained fruit. Add this mixture to the batter.

7. Grease a 20cm round baking tin. Pour the batter into the tin.

8. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes. If the top of the cake gets too brown, cover it with aluminium foil. To check if the cake is ready, insert a skewer into its centre. It is cooked when the skewer comes out clean.

9. When the cake is completely cool, pour the remaining 50ml of brandy over the cake and serve.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'Have a fruitful Christmas'. Print Edition | Subscribe