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MARGARET PROUSE: Experiments with fruitcake

There are many ways to bake a fruitcake and just as many recipes to enjoy.
There are many ways to bake a fruitcake and just as many recipes to enjoy. - 123RF Stock Photo

Peggy’s Cake is light in colour, tasty, moist and ready to enjoy

Fruitcake benefits from aging – ripening – for at least a month, but I have found a steamed fruitcake made from my friend’s recipe, called Peggy’s Cake, is good straightaway. It’s light in colour, tasty and moist.

Most fruitcakes are baked at low temperature, in relatively shallow pans, to allow heat to penetrate the dense batter without scorching or drying the exterior. Some advise creating a steamy environment by placing a pan of water in the oven while the cakes bake.

In order to keep fruitcakes from drying out while they ripen, people often wrap them in brandy-soaked cheesecloth or cover them with marzipan and frosting.

I do not claim to be an expert on fruitcakes, but I will share my experiences.

Here’s my interpretation of the original recipe for Peggy’s Cake, which I have made and enjoyed in past years.

Peggy’s Cake, a steamed fruitcake

A family recipe shared by Linda Foley

340 g (¾ lb) butter, softened

500 mL (2 cups) sugar

4 eggs

7 mL (1½ tsp) vanilla extract

750 mL (3 cups) all purpose flour

20 mL (4 tsp) baking powder

2 pkg mixed peel (I used 2 of the small 250 mL tubs)

250 mL (1 cup) chopped candied cherries

375 mL (1½ cups) chopped walnuts

glazed pineapple, mixed colours

500 g (1 lb) white raisins

Select tube pan or large loaf pan that will fit into a large covered pot for steaming. I used a bundt pan. Spray with pan spray, line with wax paper, and spray again. Heat about 7.5 cm (3 inches) of water in the large pot, and keep hot until ready to steam the cake.

In a large bowl, stir half the flour with the baking powder. In a medium bowl, stir fruit and nuts into the other half of the flour.

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and stir in vanilla.

Stir in the flour-baking powder mixture. Add half the fruit mixture, stir well, and then stir in the other half of the fruit mixture.

Spoon into pan, cover tightly with foil, place on rack in pot, cover and adjust heat so that water maintains a slow simmer. Steam cake for 3 hours, adding boiling water as required to keep pot from boiling dry. Use a skewer or cake tester to confirm that interior of cake is cooked through. Finish the cake by baking at 135 C (275 F) for ½ hour.

If making 2 small cakes, steam for 2 hours.

Now I’ll tell you about my experiment.

First, I altered the fruit mixture, using 300 g of mixed peel, 250 mL (1 cup) of chopped red and green candied cherries, 135 g of Fijian ginger chunks in syrup (from bulk food store), drained and diced, 250 g each of lexia and golden raisins. Then I macerated (soaked) the fruit for a week in 175 mL (¾ cup) of apple spice liqueur, inverting from time to time to make sure all the fruit would absorb some of the liquid.

Instead of 375 mL (1½ cups) of walnuts, I used 250 mL (1 cup) of chopped walnuts and 125 mL (½ cup) of sunflower seeds.

When it was time to mix the cake, I tossed this fruit mixture in half the flour, and then stirred it into the batter as directed.

To cook using the “steam” function on my electric multicooker, I spooned half the batter into a greased 1 L (4 cup) earthenware pudding basin, covered tightly with greased wax paper and foil, steamed for 2 hours, and allowed the pressure to drop using the natural release method. 2 hours sounds like a long time, but the cake was perfectly done.

I spooned the other half of the batter into a greased 1 L (4 cup) casserole, covered it tightly, and steamed on a rack in a Dutch oven on the stove top for 2 hours. It was lighter in colour than the pressure steamed cake, but also good.

There is always something to learn through experimentation. I liked the flavours of the liqueur and the ginger in the fruitcake, and would use this combination again. The sunflower seeds disappeared in the finished cake, and I’d use all nuts next time. In future, I would halve the recipe, and steam it in the multicooker.

This info is now correct as of end of May 2018

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at islandgusto@gmail.com.

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