Category Archives: Cakes and Cupcakes

Queen Elizabeth Cake Recipe

Ever wonder about the history of old vintage recipes?  I so wish that accurate records existed about the origins of some of the old nostalgic recipes like the one for Queen Elizabeth Cake, for example.

Queen Elizabeth Square
Queen Elizabeth Cake

This is one recipe that has some history to it but just how much is fact and how much is fable, myth, or folklore is up for certain debate.

Queen Elizabeth Cake is, next to a plain white vanilla or simple chocolate cake, probably one of the most basic, nondescript cakes you could come by. Made with a simple batter with some dates and mild spices mixed in, its glory comes from the topping made of butter, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and coconut that almost borders on toffee. Yes, this will remind you of a cold version of sticky date pudding.

Now, sometimes, you may see this referred to as Queen Elizabeth “Square” versus “Cake”. However, I think it most closely resembles a cake more so than a square. This is because the texture is light and tender, the crumb an even grain, and the body of the cake has a springiness to the touch. This is in contrast to what defines a typical square (or bars) – i.e., a dense texture and chewy consistency. I would class this cake as a hearty, substantial cake.

Queen Elizabeth Square
Queen Elizabeth Cake

So, just where and when did Queen Elizabeth Cake originate?  This is where fact and fiction intertwine and become somewhat blurry.  I did quite a bit of research on this cake. One intriguing story is that it is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s own recipe from which she made cakes herself and sold them for charitable purposes. This claim suggests the recipe originated in Buckingham Palace after the 1953 Coronation. I could find no information or evidence to substantiate this claim and neither could I find any reference to this history on the Buckingham Palace website.

In the June 1953 issue of the Canadian magazine, Chatelaine, a recipe for Queen Elizabeth II Cake was published. Chatelaine’s April 20, 2016, online posting which shared a photo of the 1953 published recipe claims it “was created specifically for the Queen’s Coronation” but gives no indication of who the actual creator was or any detail about how or why the specific ingredients were chosen.

Other information suggests the cake may have been created much earlier to commemorate Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother’s popularity and her historic visit with her husband, King George VI, to Canada in 1939.

Yet, other information suggests the cake was appearing in local community cookbooks in the 1940s when it was known as “Princess Elizabeth Cake” and there is suggestion that the name may have been changed to “Queen Elizabeth Cake” after the 1953 Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

So, all this to say, I could not definitively, with any degree of accuracy, determine the exact origins of this cake. I do personally recall childhood memories of this cake appearing at community and church events in the 1960s and 1970s in the part of Prince Edward Island in which I grew up.  Plates of sweets inevitably always had this cake on it, although I believe it was referred to as Queen Elizabeth “Square”.  I am reasonably certain of the specific ladies who would, most likely, have been the makers of this cake but they have, unfortunately, all passed on, taking with them whatever memories they may have had associated with the Queen Elizabeth Cake/Square.

Queen Elizabeth Cake
Queen Elizabeth Cake

Granted, I’ll admit the Queen Elizabeth Cake is not the most attractive cake but, boy oh boy, do the flavor, moist texture, and the kicker topping more than make up for it! This is one cake that, as the old saying goes, you ought not judge the book by the cover!  While this is not a cake that my mother made, she does have it in a handwritten recipe “scribbler” that was started in 1963. There is no indication on the handwritten recipe whose it was or where it came from. It cryptically lists the ingredients but contains no method, baking pan size, or baking temperature. This is typical because cooks, in years gone by, simply knew how to pull together a cake and, from whomever the recipe was gotten, it was probably baked in the cook’s wood stove oven (I’ll never know how they regulated the temperature in those). My mother says the cake was probably popular because it needed no frosting/icing since the topping is the “dressing” on the cake.

Queen Elizabeth Cake
Queen Elizabeth Cake

I have taken the basic recipe, adapted some of the ingredients and proportions, added some additional flavoring and spices (the recipe I adapted this one from had no spices listed) and tested the recipe out using different baking pan sizes, writing down the instructions as I worked. What has resulted is this recipe for one of the most tasty tray/slab cakes imaginable given that it is made with such simple, basic kitchen staple ingredients.

Some tips on making Queen Elizabeth Cake:

  • You may think there isn’t enough batter for a 9”x13” cake but there is – there is 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and soda so this cake will rise to a nice height in this size of pan. I tested it first in a 9″x9″ pan but found the cake was too tall in it.
  • The pan may be greased or it may be lined with parchment paper (or even greased tin foil). If using either of the latter, make sure you leave enough paper or tin foil overhang which can be used as “handles” to lift the cake out of the pan. Hint – This method makes both the cutting and removal of the cake from the pan easier than doing so while it is still in the pan.
  • Let the date mixture cool completely at room temperature. Adding it to the dry ingredients while it is either hot or warm can make for a “gummy” texture or soggy cake.
  • Mix the wet and dry ingredients using the rule of 3 parts dry and 2 parts wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  • Mix the ingredients well but don’t beat them as this may create a “tough crumb” cake.
  • Use cream to make the topping. I used 18% cream but 35% cream will create an even more luxurious topping (but also add a few more calories!).
  • Start checking the cake for doneness at the point where the cake has been baking for 30 minutes then, if it is not baked, check it every 4-5 minutes after. The cake will be done when the cake tester, inserted into the center of the cake, comes out completely clean and dry.
  • When the cake tests almost baked (about 5 minutes before it is expected to come out of the oven), start making the topping. It needs to go on the warm cake that will go back in the oven for 3-4 minutes after the topping has been added.
  • The topping is a little bit like making candy. It can set up really fast. Don’t leave it unattended. Stir the ingredients as they boil gently for the 3 minutes. Watch it carefully – if you see if starting to “set up” and thicken really fast (even if it is before the 3 minutes of boiling is up), remove it from the stove and stir in the vanilla and coconut. The mixture should be of the consistency that it can be poured from the saucepan and spread over the cake with a knife. If it becomes too thick, it will be too sugary and won’t be of spreading consistency.

Splendid, no matter its history or how it’s served, this cake pairs particularly well with a spot of tea…. perhaps Earl Grey blend.  This is a smooth black tea that has citrus notes that complement the sweetness of the cake. With its high concentration of tannins, it’s also a great tea to cleanse the mouth after each bite of the cake so that every bite of this moist and flavorful cake tastes as good as the first one!

Queen Elizabeth Square
Queen Elizabeth Cake

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

Queen Elizabeth Cake

 Ingredients:
1 cup dates, chopped
1 tsp soda
1 cup boiling water

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch allspice

¼ cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla

Topping:
3 tbsp melted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp cream (18%)
½ tsp vanilla
2/3 cup shredded coconut

Method:

Cake:

Place dates and soda in medium-sized saucepan.  Add the boiling water. Simmer for about 4-5 minutes then cool completely at room temperature.

Position oven rack in centre of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 9”x13” baking pan or line with parchment paper (or even greased tin foil).

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together. Set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg, orange extract, and vanilla. Transfer mixture to cooled dates. Stir well.

Transfer one-third of the sifted dry ingredients to the mixer bowl.  Beat in one-half of the wet ingredients. Add another third of the dry ingredients. Blend well. Mix in the remainder of the wet ingredients.  Finish by incorporating the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well to combine. Don’t overmix.

Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan.  Transfer to preheated oven and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven.

Topping:

About 5 minutes before the cake is due to be removed from the oven, begin to prepare the cake topping.  In medium-sized saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter.  Blend in the brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the vanilla and coconut. Pour and spread this mixture evenly over the warm cake and return it to the oven to brown slightly for 3-4 minutes. Remove cake from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely before cutting and serving.

This cake freezes well.

Yield:  1 – 9”x13” single layer cake

Queen Elizabeth Cake

Yield: 1 - 9"x13" cake

This moist and flavorful cake is made with dates and spices and features a delectable toffee-like topping

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • Pinch allspice
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Topping:
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp cream (18%)
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut

Instructions

  1. Cake:
  2. Place dates and soda in medium-sized saucepan. Add the boiling water. Simmer for about 4-5 minutes then cool completely at room temperature.
  3. Position oven rack in centre of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9”x13” baking pan or line with parchment paper (or even greased tin foil).
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together. Set aside.
  5. In bowl of stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, orange extract, and vanilla. Transfer mixture to cooled dates. Stir well.
  6. Transfer one-third of the sifted dry ingredients to the mixer bowl. Beat in one-half of the wet ingredients. Add another third of the dry ingredients. Blend well. Mix in the remainder of the wet ingredients. Finish by incorporating the remaining dry ingredients. Mix well to combine. Don’t overmix.
  7. Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan. Transfer to preheated oven and bake for approximately 30-40 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven.
  8. Topping:
  9. About 5 minutes before the cake is due to be removed from the oven, begin to prepare the cake topping. In medium-sized saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter. Blend in the brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 3 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the vanilla and coconut. Pour and spread this mixture evenly over the warm cake and return it to the oven to brown slightly for 3-4 minutes. Remove cake from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Notes

Please refer to entire blog posting for hints and tips on making this cake.

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Queen Elizabeth Cake

Queen Elizabeth Cake

Festive Light Fruitcake Recipe

One of my favorite foods to make is the traditional fruitcake – both dark and light versions.  And, I adore the scent in my home as the cakes bake.  As I write this post, this is my 40th year making fruitcakes – where does the time go!  I don’t make both dark and light every year. Rather, I make a dark cake one year then, the following year, make a light cake.

Christmas Cake
Light Fruitcake

My Christmas season begins in early November when the first thing done to prepare for the holidays is to make the fruitcake.  Fruitcakes do well with some “ageing” before they are cut – about 3 weeks is the minimum they should age. This period allows the flavors to blend well and the cake to moisten which, of course, is always aided by a brushing of a weekly “nightcap” of whatever liquor is used in the cake.  I tend to put rum in my dark cakes and brandy in the light fruitcakes.  This libation not only helps to keep the cake moist but it also infuses flavor into the cake as it ages.

Christmas Cake
Light Fruitcake

Apart from their lighter color, light fruitcakes tend to be less rich and not quite as sweet as their dark counterparts.  The wonderful thing about light fruitcakes is that the light-colored batter allows the jewel-toned glazed fruit to show well.  Light fruitcake is both a flavorful and colorful addition to any holiday sweet tray.

Fruitcake
Light Fruitcake

When I posted my recipe awhile back for my dark fruit cake, I offered several tips and hints on how to make fruitcakes.  You can access that information by clicking here. The same tips and hints apply to light fruitcakes.

My version of a light fruitcake is nut-free. I find nuts can sometimes go rancid and can interfere with the nice soft texture of the fruitcake so I have long since dispensed with them in my cakes. As well, for any one with an allergy to nuts, a fruitcake with nuts would be off limits.

Christmas Cake
Jewel-toned Light Fruitcake

[Printable version of recipe follows at end of posting]

Light Fruit Cake

Ingredients:
1 lb golden sultana raisins
6 oz green glazed cherries
6 oz red glazed cherries
4 oz glazed pineapple rings, chopped
¾ lb mixed glazed fruit
¼ lb citron
½ cup brandy
¾ cup flaked coconut
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
2 tsp finely grated orange rind

1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1½ cup white sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 tsp almond flavoring
1 tsp lemon flavoring
½ cup crushed pineapple, drained very well (reserve ¼ cup of the juice)

3¾ cups all-purpose flour (set aside 1 cup of the flour to flour the fruit mixture)
1½ tsp baking power
¼ tsp salt

¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup pineapple juice (from the drained crushed pineapple)

Extra brandy for brushing on cake as it ages and for soaking cheesecloth in which to wrap the cake

Method:
In large bowl, combine the raisins, cherries, glazed pineapple, mixed glazed fruit, and citron. Mix well.  Stir in the brandy to coat the fruit.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand for about 24 hours to macerate the fruit, stirring occasionally. When ready to mix up the cake, add the coconut and lemon and orange rind.  Stir well.

Prepare 8-inch square fruitcake pan that is 3 inches deep and has a removable bottom:  Lightly spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray.  Line the pan (bottom and sides), with brown paper or double thickness of parchment paper.  Lightly spray the paper.

Preheat oven to 275°F.

In large bowl of stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until mixture is light and creamy.  Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure ingredients are all incorporated. Beat 1 additional minute. Beat in the vanilla, almond, and lemon flavorings.  Stir in the drained crushed pineapple.

Sift together 2¾ cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In measuring cup or small bowl, combine the orange and lemon juices along with the reserved ¼ cup of pineapple juice.

Add the dry and wet ingredients to the beaten butter and sugar mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Transfer batter to a very large bowl.

Sprinkle reserved cup of flour over the macerated fruit and toss ingredients lightly and quickly.  Gently fold the fruit mixture into the batter.

In clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

Transfer batter by large spoonfuls into the prepared baking pan.  Use a knife to evenly spread the batter in the pan, smoothing the top.  Add a few cherries as decorations to the top of the cake, if desired.

Place small pan of hot water on the lower rack in the oven.  Place fruitcake in center of middle rack and bake for approximately 5 – 5¼ hours or until cake is firm to the touch and cake tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. After about an hour or so of baking, loosely tent cake with tin foil to prevent it from browning too much. Remove cake from oven and place on rack.  Let cake cool in pan for about 40 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on a tea towel and removing the paper.  Carefully turn the cake top side up on to a wire cooling rack.

Let cake cool completely before brushing well with brandy and wrapping in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, followed by plastic wrap and tin foil. Store in a sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry area.  Remove wrapping and brush cake top and sides with brandy once a week for 2-3 weeks as the cake “ages” before cutting and serving.

Yield:  1 – 6 lb, 6½ oz cake

Light Fruitcake

Yield: 1 – 6 lb, 6½ oz cake

A wonderful jewel-toned light fruitcake full of flavor and mixed fruit. (Cake is nut-free)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb golden sultana raisins
  • 6 oz green glazed cherries
  • 6 oz red glazed cherries
  • 4 oz glazed pineapple rings, chopped
  • ¾ lb mixed glazed fruit
  • ¼ lb citron
  • ½ cup brandy
  • ¾ cup flaked coconut
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1½ cup white sugar
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond flavoring
  • 1 tsp lemon flavoring
  • ½ cup crushed pineapple, drained very well (reserve ¼ cup of the juice)
  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour (set aside 1 cup of the flour to flour the fruit mixture)
  • 1½ tsp baking power
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice (from the drained crushed pineapple)
  • Extra brandy for brushing on cake as it ages and for soaking cheesecloth in which to wrap the cake

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, combine the raisins, cherries, glazed pineapple, mixed glazed fruit, and citron. Mix well. Stir in the brandy to coat the fruit. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand for about 24 hours to macerate the fruit, stirring occasionally. When ready to mix up the cake, add the coconut and lemon and orange rind. Stir well.
  2. Prepare 8-inch square fruitcake pan that is 3 inches deep and has a removable bottom: Lightly spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Line the pan (bottom and sides), with brown paper or double thickness of parchment paper. Lightly spray the paper.
  3. Preheat oven to 275°F.
  4. In large bowl of stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until mixture is light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure ingredients are all incorporated. Beat 1 additional minute. Beat in the vanilla, almond, and lemon flavorings. Stir in the drained crushed pineapple.
  5. Sift together 2¾ cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  6. In measuring cup or small bowl, combine the orange and lemon juices along with the reserved ¼ cup of pineapple juice.
  7. Add the dry and wet ingredients to the beaten butter and sugar mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Transfer batter to a very large bowl.
  8. Sprinkle reserved cup of flour over the macerated fruit and toss ingredients lightly and quickly. Gently fold the fruit mixture into the batter.
  9. In clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.
  10. Transfer batter by large spoonfuls into the prepared baking pan. Use a knife to evenly spread the batter in the pan, smoothing the top. Add a few cherries as decorations to the top of the cake, if desired.
  11. Place small pan of hot water on the lower rack in the oven. Place fruitcake in center of middle rack and bake for approximately 5 – 5¼ hours or until cake is firm to the touch and cake tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. After about an hour or so of baking, loosely tent cake with tin foil to prevent it from browning too much. Remove cake from oven and place on rack. Let cake cool in pan for about 40 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on a tea towel and removing the paper. Carefully turn the cake top side up on to a wire cooling rack.
  12. Let cake cool completely before brushing well with brandy and wrapping in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, followed by plastic wrap and tin foil. Store in a sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry area. Remove wrapping and brush cake top and sides with brandy once a week for 2-3 weeks as the cake “ages” before cutting and serving.
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Christmas Cake
Light Fruitcake

Vintage Tomato Soup Layer Cake Recipe

By now, if you are a regular follower of my food blog, you have probably detected that I like vintage foods and those that could be called comfort foods.

I grew up with tomato soup cake as standard fare in the household. It’s such a simple cake and, while it may seem bizarre to add a can of tomato soup to cake batter, it’s really tasty when some spices are added. The tomato soup cake my mother used to make was always a single layer (and always made in the pyrex glass 8″ square baking pan). It was never frosted and was generally considered to be an “every day cake” as opposed to a cake for a special occasion.  My mother’s cake was rather dense in texture and contained no eggs. Spices consisted of cinnamon and cloves.

Tomato Soup Cake
Tomato Soup Cake

I have used my mother’s recipe as inspiration but have completely revamped the recipe to turn this cake into a more decadent dessert.  I’ve added eggs for lightness, moisture, and a tender crumb and added some molasses and a small amount of nutmeg for added flavour.  A hefty dose of cream cheese frosting takes a plain old basic cake to new heights. On top of great flavour, the cake has a beautiful rusty-orange color.

Tomato Soup Cake
Tomato Soup Cake

I bake this cake in two 8″ round pans and the batter will rise to the very top of each pan.  Nine-inch (9″) round pans can also be used but the cakes will obviously not be quite as thick and the baking time will need to be adjusted as they will take slightly less time to bake than the 8″ cakes.  I highly recommend using bake even strips, dampened and wrapped snugly around each pan – these help to keep cakes even as they bake as opposed to tops that have peaks and valleys.  These strips really do make a difference.  That said, though, there is usually some leveling that still has to take place on the cakes and, for this, I recommend a cake leveler or, alternatively, you can use a serrated knife.  Make sure both cakes are the same height and that any loose crumbs are brushed from the cakes before frosting.

Tomato Soup Cake
Tomato Soup Cake

(Printable recipe follows at end of post)

Tomato Soup Layer Cake

Ingredients:

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2¾ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp cloves

¼ tsp nutmeg

⅔ cup shortening, softened to room temperature

1⅓ cups sugar

2 large eggs (at room temperature for 15-20 minutes)

1 – 10 oz can tomato soup

2 tbsp milk

2 tbsp molasses

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F and position rack in center of oven.

Prepare two 8” round cake pans by greasing the pans and lining the bottom of each pan with parchment paper .

In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

In large bowl with mixer set at medium speed, cream the shortening and sugar together until well blended.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, combine the tomato soup, milk, and molasses.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the liquid ingredients, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat well after each addition, scraping bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary to ensure all dry ingredients are incorporated.  Finally, beat batter one additional minute at medium-high speed.

Divide batter equally between the two prepared pans, spreading evenly.  Bake for apx.  38-40 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of a cake comes out clean and cake springs back to a light finger touch.  Transfer cakes to wire rack and let cool in pans for 10 minutes. With the edge of a small flat-edged paring knife, gently loosen edges of each cake from the pans.  Invert cakes onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.

Yield: 1 – 8” layer cake, apx. 10-12 servings

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature

½ cup butter or margarine, softened

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp milk

1 lb sifted icing (confectioner’s/powdered) sugar (weighed after sifted)

Method:

With mixer set at medium speed, beat cream cheese and butter or margarine until creamy and well-blended.  Beat in vanilla and milk.  Add about one-third of the icing sugar.  Beat well to blend.  Add remaining icing sugar in two separate additions, beating well after each addition and scraping bowl often with rubber spatula to ensure sugar is well blended into creamed mixture.  Beat for 1-2 minutes longer until frosting is smooth, light, and fluffy.

Yield:  Enough to fill and completely frost 1 – 8” or 1 – 9” layer cake.

To assemble cake:

Even each cake top by using a cake leveler or serrated knife, ensuring both cakes are the same height. Lightly brush away any loose crumbs remaining on the sides of the cakes.  Sandwich together the two cake layers with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting.  With the remaining frosting, cover the top of cake and, if desired, the sides or, alternatively, leave the sides without frosting for a more rustic looking cake.

Tomato Soup Cake
Tomato Soup Cake

Vintage Tomato Soup Layer Cake

Yield: 1 - 8" layer cake, apx. 10-12 servings

A moist and flavorful spice cake with a tender crumb

Ingredients

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup shortening, softened to room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs (at room temperature for 15-20 minutes)
  • 1 – 10oz can tomato soup
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • Frosting:
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • ½ cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp milk
  • 1 lb sifted icing (confectioner’s/powdered) sugar (weighed after sifted)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and position rack in center of oven.
  2. Prepare two 8” round cake pans by greasing the pans and lining the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.
  3. In medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
  4. In large bowl with mixer set at medium speed, cream the shortening and sugar together until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, combine the tomato soup, milk, and molasses.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the liquid ingredients, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Beat well after each addition, scraping bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary to ensure all dry ingredients are incorporated. Finally, beat batter one additional minute at medium-high speed.
  7. Divide batter equally between the two prepared pans, spreading evenly. Bake for apx. 38-40 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of a cake comes out clean and cake springs back to a light finger touch. Transfer cakes to wire rack and let cool in pans for 10 minutes. With the edge of a small flat-edged paring knife, gently loosen edges of each cake from the pans. Invert cakes onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.
  8. Frosting:
  9. With mixer set at medium speed, beat cream cheese and butter or margarine until creamy and well-blended. Beat in vanilla and milk. Add about one-third of the icing sugar. Beat well to blend. Add remaining icing sugar in two separate additions, beating well after each addition and scraping bowl often with rubber spatula to ensure sugar is well blended into creamed mixture. Beat for 1-2 minutes longer until frosting is smooth, light, and fluffy.
  10. To assemble cake:
  11. Even each cake top by using a cake leveler or serrated knife, ensuring both cakes are the same height. Lightly brush away any loose crumbs remaining on the sides of the cakes. Sandwich together the two cake layers with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting. With the remaining frosting, cover the top of cake and, if desired, the sides or, alternatively, leave the sides without frosting for a more rustic looking cake.
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Tomato Soup Cake
Tomato Soup Cake

Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes

Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcake
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcake

Today marks my 4th Blogiversary and I’m celebrating with my newly-developed recipe for Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes!  These are perfect for any event, any time of the year but, with their pink swirl centers and mile high frosting, I think they would be very suitable for Valentines Day. So, they’re doing double duty as they celebrate my 4th Blogiversary and act as a catalyst for Valentine’s baking.

Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcake
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcake

These cupcakes deliver a flavor punch with coconut milk, amaretto, shredded coconut, and maraschino cherries. That’s a flavor combo that’s hard to beat!

Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes

In addition to the wonderful flavor, the coconut milk makes these cupcakes lovely and moist. They also have a fine tender crumb which makes them very velvety when you sink your teeth into them.

Here are my tips and recommendations for making cupcakes:

  • Use the best quality ingredients available.  Don’t substitute margarine for the butter or artificial vanilla for pure vanilla in this recipe. Using lesser quality ingredients will affect the quality and taste of the cupcakes.
  • Measure ingredients accurately – that means, for example, spooning the flour into the measuring cup and then leveling it off with the flat side of a knife, without stirring the flour around in the cup or tapping it to shake the flour down into the cup.
  • Use the stated size of eggs – this matters as extra-large eggs (which this recipe calls for) yield more liquid than do large eggs. If you use smaller eggs than the recipe calls for, it will yield a drier cupcake.
  • Resist the urge to add increased amounts of ingredients such as more coconut or cherries than the recipe states as the liquid content in this recipe has been calculated to moisten the dry ingredients accurately. If more dry ingredients, such as extra coconut, are added without increasing the liquid content, the cupcakes will be dry.
  • All the ingredients should be at room temperature as this will help them to blend together better.
  • The eggs should be at room temperature for about 20 minutes or so before using them in this recipe.
  • Soften the butter at room temperature.  Never melt the butter in the microwave to soften it as it will change the properties of the butter.
  • Add the dry and liquid ingredients alternately in three parts, always starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  • Don’t overbeat the batter as this can make a tough crumb and a heavy, dense cupcake as opposed to a light-textured cupcake. Beat the batter on low speed and just until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  • Grease the top of the cupcake pan as, even if paper cupcake liners are used, there will always be at least one rogue cupcake that will rise up and stick to the top of the pan, making it difficult to remove the cupcake without damaging it.
  • Make sure your oven temperature is accurate and that the oven has been preheated. If the oven temperature is too high, it will dry out the cupcakes; if it is too low, they won’t rise and bake properly.
  • It’s also important not to overbake the cupcakes as that will make them dry. I recommend checking them at about the 14 or 15-minute baking point by either a light finger touch to see if the top of the cupcake is set and if it bounces back from the touch. Alternatively, use a cake tester to insert into the center of a cupcake. If it comes out clean, the cupcakes are baked.
  • Let the cupcakes rest in the cupcake pan for 3-4 minutes to allow them to set then gently remove them from the pan and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes

The frosting consists of two flavors to complement the cupcake flavor – coconut and cherry. Combined, these two recipes will give you ample to frost 12 cupcakes with mile high swirled frosting as shown in the photos.  If, however, that’s just a tad too much frosting for your taste, simply make just one of the frosting recipes.

Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcake
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcake

I used Wilton decorating tip 2D for the swirl frosting and the two colors were achieved by filling one side of the decorating bag with white frosting and the other side with the cherry frosting.

Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

½ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Amaretto
½ cup coconut milk
1/3 cup shredded coconut
¼ cup chopped maraschino cherries, well drained and patted dry

Pink food coloring

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 12 muffin cups or, alternatively, line each cup with paper cupcake liners.

In medium-sized bowl, combine four dry ingredients. Set aside.

Fit mixer with paddle attachment. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and Amaretto.

Add the dry ingredients in three parts alternately with the coconut milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

Remove ½ cup of the batter and add the food coloring to it, just enough to tint the batter pink.

Add the coconut and chopped cherries to the white batter.

Fill each muffin cup about 1/3 full with the white coconut batter. Divide the ½ cup of pink batter between the 12 cupcakes.

Divide the remaining white batter evenly between the 12 cupcakes.Use the tip of a knife to gently swirl the pink batter into the white in each cupcake.

Bake in center of oven for 15-19 minutes or until cupcakes spring back to a light touch or a cake tester inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan for 3-4 minutes then carefully transfer them to wire rack to cool completely.

Frost and decorate cupcakes as desired. The two frosting recipes provided with this recipe will, combined, easily frost the 12 cupcakes with the amount of swirled frosting shown in the photographs that accompany the cupcake recipe. If less frosting is desired, make only one of the recipes.

Yield: 12 cupcakes
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes
Coconut Frosting

¼ cup butter
¼ cup shortening
1 tbsp coconut milk
¼ tsp almond flavouring
Apx. 2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
Sprinkle of salt (optional)

Beat butter and shortening together. Add coconut milk and almond flavouring. Blend in enough sifted confectioners sugar for desired spreading consistency.

Cherry Frosting

¼ cup butter
¼ cup shortening
1½ tbsp cherry juice
¼ tsp almond flavouring
Apx. 2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
Sprinkle of salt (optional)

Beat butter and shortening together. Add cherry juice and almond flavouring. Blend in enough confectioners sugar for desired spreading consistency.

To achieve dual-colored swirl frosting, fit cake decorating bag with Wilton 2D decorating tip. Fill one side of decorating bag with the white frosting and the other half with the pink frosting. Pipe onto cupcake in swirl motion.

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Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Rich and decadent cupcakes packed full of coconut flavour and covered in mile-high coconut and cherry frosting

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp Amaretto
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup chopped maraschino cherries, well drained and patted dry
  • Pink food coloring
  • Coconut Frosting:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk
  • ¼ tsp almond flavouring
  • Apx. 2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
  • Sprinkle of salt (optional)
  • Cherry Frosting:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 1½ tbsp cherry juice
  • ¼ tsp almond flavouring
  • Apx. 2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
  • Sprinkle of salt (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 12 muffin cups or, alternatively, line each cup with paper cupcake liners.
  2. In medium-sized bowl, combine four dry ingredients. Set aside.
  3. Fit mixer with paddle attachment. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and Amaretto.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in three parts alternately with the coconut milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
  5. Remove ½ cup of the batter and add the food coloring to it, just enough to tint the batter pink.
  6. Add the coconut and chopped cherries to the white batter.
  7. Fill each muffin cup about 1/3 full with the white coconut batter. Divide the ½ cup of pink batter between the 12 cupcakes. Divide the remaining white batter evenly between the 12 cupcakes. Use the tip of a knife to gently swirl the pink batter into the white in each cupcake.
  8. Bake in center of oven for 15-19 minutes or until cupcakes spring back to a light touch or a cake tester inserted into center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan for 3-4 minutes then carefully transfer them to wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Frost and decorate cupcakes as desired. The two frosting recipes provided with this recipe will, combined, easily frost the 12 cupcakes with lots of swirled frosting. If less frosting is desired, make only one of the recipes.
  10. Coconut Frosting: Beat butter and shortening together. Add coconut milk and almond flavouring. Blend in enough sifted confectioners sugar for desired spreading consistency.
  11. Cherry Frosting: Beat butter and shortening together. Add cherry juice and almond flavouring. Blend in enough confectioners sugar for desired spreading consistency.
  12. To achieve dual-colored swirl frosting, fit cake decorating bag with Wilton 2D decorating tip. Fill one side of decorating bag with the white frosting and the other half with the pink frosting. Pipe onto cupcake in swirl motion.
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Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes
Dreamy Hawaiian Cupcakes

Gumdrop Cake

Gumdrop Cake
Gumdrop Cake

This is one of my all-time favorite cakes! It’s colorful and it’s tasty.  While I make this cake at any time of the year (and it’s often a staple in my freezer because it freezes very well), it’s a great Christmas cake because of the colorful gumdrops which give it a festive appearance.  It is also  a perfect alternative for those who do not like the traditional fruitcakes associated with the holiday season.  It’s lighter, both in the color of the cake and its texture, than a fruitcake and yet it is colorful with its myriad of shades of gumdrops.

Gumdrop Cake
Gumdrop Cake

The cake is a bit time-consuming to make because cutting the sticky gumdrops can be a bit tedious and it does take over 2 hours to bake so you do need to do some planning ahead to make this cake. That said, the method is not at all difficult.

To begin, buy good gumdrops. Hard to believe it but there is a difference in the quality of gumdrops.  I use Ganong gumdrops made in St. Stephen, New Brunswick.  The Ganong company has  been making candies since 1873 so they have a good handle on what makes quality confections! The Ganong gumdrops are good quality and hence make a better cake.  Don’t use black gumdrops in this cake – those are good for snacking while cutting up the other colored gumdrops 😉 Black gumdrops are just plain ugly in a cake and may bleed out their intense color.  I also don’t put a lot of white gumdrops in the cake either because they are not bright and showy enough. Cut each of the gumdrops into 3-5 pieces, depending on the size of the gumdrops to begin with.

The thing about gumdrops is that they are heavy, even when they are cut. This means there is a possibility they could fall to the bottom of the cake with the top half or more of the cake having few, if any, gumdrops.  To counter this issue, make sure the gumdrops are well dredged (floured).  Dredging means some of the flour called for in the recipe is used to coat the cut sticky edges of the gumdrops so they don’t all stick to each other and fall, with their collected weight, to the bottom of the cake.

DSCN1900

To dredge the gumdrops, simply place the cut gumdrops in a bowl and add a small amount of flour.  By spoon or by hand, toss the gumdrops in the flour, making sure the cut side of each gumdrop is well floured.

The other tip to avoid ‘falling gumdrops’ is to only use a reasonable amount in the recipe. It’s tempting to add lots and lots more  gumdrops; however, those add weight to the cake and they will likely all get together and congregate to have a party at the bottom of the cake.  This cake has a light batter so it doesn’t have the power to hold up a lot of heavy gumdrops. I use 1 pound of gumdrops for this cake and find it is sufficient.

Adding the gumdrops to the batter is the last step in making this cake so, when doing so, fold them in gently with a rubber spatula and don’t over-mix. Just fold them in till there is no  flour visible.  Over-mixing them will remove the flour from their floured edges and may cause the gumdrops to fall to the bottom of the cake. The flour is meant to act as a “barrier” between the sticky gumdrops and the wet batter.  As shown in the photograph below, just keep gently rolling the spatula over and under the batter until all the gumdrops are incorporated.

Gently folding in the gumdrops

You can see how each roll of the spatula brings up more batter each time until the gumdrops are finally all blended in.

The batter for this cake will not result in a lily-white cake because it uses butter.  To get a white cake, shortening would have to be used but you would be sacrificing the butter flavour for which this cake is meant. Use the good stuff!

Gumdrop Cake
Gumdrop Cake

The butter will cream much easier and faster if it is at room temperature so take the butter out of the fridge an hour or two ahead of preparing the cake. Avoid the temptation of softening the butter in the microwave as, inevitably, some of it will melt and that causes a different texture to the butter.  I also remove the eggs and the milk from the fridge about 35-40 minutes before making the cake, bringing them to room temperature.  I find this helps the ingredients to incorporate better and more smoothly than if they are used in their refrigerated cold state.

The best pan to use for this cake is a funnel cake pan. The hole in the center of this pan helps the cake to bake evenly without it falling in the center, leaving it unbaked and gummy. I use my large 16-cup angel food pan for this recipe but a slightly smaller funnel pan would accommodate the amount of batter called for in this recipe.

Place the oven rack in the center of the oven to bake the cake and place the cake pan in the center of the rack. If the cake starts to brown too quickly on the top, loosely lay a piece of tin foil over the top of the pan.  It takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes for this cake to bake in my oven but I recommend that you start testing for doneness at the 2 hour point so the cake does not dry out.  It is done when a cake tester inserted near the center close to the funnel comes out clean and the top of the cake is no longer sticky.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes then turn it out on to a wire rack, removing the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake.  Let the cake cool completely before cutting.  This cake is best left for a day or two to age before slicing it.

Gumdrop Cake
Gumdrop Cake
Gumdrop Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
1⅔ cups granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1¼ tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond flavouring
1 tsp lemon flavouring

3 cups flour (reserve 1/4 cup for dredging cut gumdrops)
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

1 cup milk, room temperature

1 lb gumdrops, cut into 3-5 pieces each

Method:

Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 300°F. Grease large funnel pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

In medium-sized bowl, dredge the cut gumdrops with 1/4 cup of the flour, making sure that the cut edges of each gumdrop are well floured. Set aside. In separate bowl, sift together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar, beating until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla along with the almond and lemon flavourings. Add the dry and wet ingredients in three parts (3 parts dry and 2 parts wet) starting and ending with the dry ingredients. After all ingredients have been added, beat batter on medium speed for 1 minute.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and, by hand, gently fold in the floured gumdrops just until incorporated and no dry flour remains visible. Do not overmix.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and, with knife, smooth batter out even. Bake for approximately 2¼ hours or until cake tester inserted near funnel center of pan comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan for 20-30 minutes then turn cake out onto wire rack to cool completely. Cake  will slice better a day or two after baking.

Gumdrop Cake
Gumdrop Cake

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Gumdrop Cake

A buttery cake loaded with flavour and dotted with colorful gumdrops.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1¼ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond flavouring
  • 1 tsp lemon flavouring
  • 3 cups flour (reserve 1/4 cup for dredging cut gumdrops)
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1 lb gumdrops, cut into 3-5 pieces each

Instructions

  1. Place oven rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 300°F. Grease large funnel pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
  2. In medium-sized bowl, dredge the cut gumdrops with 1/4 cup of the flour, making sure that the cut edges of each gumdrop are well floured. Set aside. In separate bowl, sift together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar, beating until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla along with the almond and lemon flavourings. Add the dry and wet ingredients in three parts (3 parts dry and 2 parts wet) starting and ending with the dry ingredients. After all ingredients have been added, beat batter on medium speed for 1 minute.
  4. Remove bowl from stand mixer and, by hand, gently fold in the floured gumdrops just until incorporated and no dry flour remains visible. Do not overmix.
  5. Transfer batter to prepared pan and, with knife, smooth batter out even. Bake for approximately 2¼ hours or until cake tester inserted near funnel center of pan comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan for 20-30 minutes then turn cake out onto wire rack to cool completely. Cake will slice better a day or two after baking.
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Gumdrop Cake
Gumdrop Cake

Dark Fruitcake

Dark Fruitcake
Dark Fruitcake

Fruitcakes. People either love them or loathe them and there seems to be no middle ground. I personally favour them and they are part of my annual Christmas traditions.

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Dark Fruitcake
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Dark Fruitcake

There are basically two kinds of fruitcakes, a light cake and a dark cake. The dark fruitcake is characterized by the addition of molasses, spices, and often strawberry jam, all of which contribute to its dark color.  The light fruit cake has a light-colored batter which makes the jewel tones of the glazed fruit pop.  It is, by far, the most colorful of the two cakes.  While I could not find any conclusive statistics, it seems to me that dark fruitcakes may perhaps be the more common.

Fruitcakes are sometimes called Christmas cakes since that’s often the only time of the year they make an appearance anymore. Years ago, however, fruitcake was a staple at weddings where the dark fruitcake was referred to as the groom’s cake while white pound cake was the bride’s cake. This tradition, at least where I live, has long since been dispensed with and replaced, instead, with many other cake flavor options.

I have been making fruitcakes for 38 years (I started making them when I was two! At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Or, maybe it’s the vapors from the joy juice I’ve been brushing on my fruitcake over the past several weeks talking!). Some years I make both dark and light fruitcakes and, other years, one or the other. I simply love the smell of a fruitcake baking in the oven on a cold November afternoon. I always make my fruitcake around Remembrance Day as that gives it lots of time to “ripen” and mellow before the holidays. The making of the fruitcake heralds the beginning of my holiday preparations.

Fruitcakes are still considered a luxurious treat by many because the ingredients can be costly and the cake is time-consuming to make. Sometimes it is even hard to find the big sticky raisins, often referred to as Lexia raisins, which are a signature ingredient in a traditional dark fruitcake.

Lexia Raisins (big sticky raisins)
Lexia Raisins (big sticky raisins)

Essentially, a fruit cake is a mixture of candied/glazed fruit, different kinds of raisins, and often nuts, all held together by a small amount of batter. Before I share my recipe for dark fruitcake at the end of this posting, I am going to share some hints and tips from my almost-40 years of making fruitcakes. I hope you will find them helpful.

Cake Shape

Traditionally, fruitcakes are either square or round-shaped and quite deep – at least 2½” – 3” deep. The pans should be ones that have removable bottoms as this makes it easy to remove the cake from the pan.  The pans below have been in my family for years and have held many fruitcakes.  They may be old and discolored but they do the trick!

Fruitcake pans
Fruitcake pans

Square cakes are infinitely easier to cut and plate more attractively than round cakes. With square pans, each piece can be cut to the same size and shape whereas, with round cakes, it is more difficult to get nice, even pieces from pie-shaped wedges. However, the shape of the cake is a personal preference and the cake will taste the same regardless of shape.

It is important to use the size of pan the recipe calls for as baking times have been tested for its size. Some bakers use loaf pans, 9”x13” shallow pans, or even muffin cups or soup cans in which to bake their fruit cakes. If changing a pan size from the one recommended by the recipe, remember that baking times will need to be adjusted accordingly as a more shallow or smaller cake will take less time than a deeper one to bake.

Soaking Fruit

Commonly, the glazed and dry fruit, including the raisins and currants, are soaked in liquor, with rum or brandy the most commonly used types of libation. Alternatively the fruit can be soaked in a fruit juice.

The purpose of soaking the fruit is three-fold:

1) To soften/plump the dried fruit – the raisins, in particular;
2) To add flavour to the cake; and
3) As a preservative (if using liquor) to extend the shelf life of the cake.

Some bakers soak the fruit for several months. I don’t find this necessary or that the cake has any significantly better flavour if made with fruit that has been soaked for months. I soak the fruit in a covered container for 24-48 hours, stirring it 3-4 times during the macerating process.

 

It is important to resist adding more liquor to the fruit soak than is called for in the recipe. Adding too much liquor will add too much liquid to the batter, making it too runny to hold the fruit from falling to the cake bottom.

Fruit and Nut Content

True traditional fruit cakes will have candied/glazed fruit, a mixture of raisins, and sometimes nuts. It is important that candied/glazed fruit be used and not, for example, fruit with a lot of liquid such as maraschino cherries which will add too much excess liquid to the batter.

Jeweled-toned Fruit
Jeweled-toned Fruit

Fruitcakes typically do contain nuts; however, my recipe below is nut-free. I find several issues with including nuts in a fruitcake:

1) Nuts, over the long term, can go rancid or, alternatively, be hard junks in an otherwise soft texture cake;
2) Chunks of nuts can make it difficult to cut the cake; and
3) Many people have nut allergies and cannot enjoy a piece of fruitcake made with nuts.

Fruitcake ingredients can be flexible which means substitute ingredients are perfectly acceptable so long as the overall weight content of the fruit that the recipe calls for is maintained. For example, my fruitcake recipe calls for 3 pounds of fruit and I have listed the weight content of each ingredient. If you don’t happen to like citron, for example, simply omit the 3 oz called for and replace it with another glazed fruit of the same weight. If you want to add some nuts to the cake, then reduce the amount of some other ingredient, such as raisins or glazed fruit, by the weight of the nuts you are adding.

Batter

A fruit cake batter is very thick and dense and contains very little flour content. Essentially, there is just enough batter to hold the ingredients together. The reason the batter needs to be thick (as opposed to runny) is that it needs to support the heavy fruit content and keep it suspended and distributed evenly throughout the cake. Otherwise, the fruit will fall to the bottom of the cake.

It is important to “flour” the fruit with a small amount of flour just before adding the fruit to the batter. This will also help to keep the fruit suspended throughout the cake.  You will want to do this quickly and not leave the floured fruit any length of time before adding it to the batter as the flour when combined with the glaze on the fruit can turn into a gummy mess, thus defeating the purpose of flouring the fruit.

Preparing the Pan

The pan needs to be greased or sprayed with cooking oil then lined with either brown paper or parchment paper, then greased/sprayed again. Because there is very little leavening in the cake and because it is a heavy, thick cake, the pan can be fairly well filled without risk of batter running over the top.

Decorating the Cake Top

There are many ways to decorate the top of a fruitcake and some are very elaborate and show-worthy. Some bakers completely cover the top of the cake with a lovely pattern of whole glazed cherries and/or nuts, topped with a glaze. Others decorate with just a few cherries/nuts. I sometimes do the latter but often leave it plain as it is easier to cut and plate.

Some bakers cover the cake with royal icing and marzipan. However, I find that the moisture from a dark fruit cake stains the icing making it less attractive.

Baking the Fruitcake

Baking is always the tricky part to fruitcake making. Fruitcakes need to be baked in slow ovens – i.e., 275ºF or less for several hours. Baking at too high a temperature will result in a dry cake. Bake the fruitcakes in the lower third of the oven and include a small pan of water on the shelf below the cake. The steam from the water will help to keep the cake moist as it bakes.

If the cake starts to darken too much before it is baked, loosely tent a piece of tin foil over the top of the cake. However, only do this if the cake top has completely set all over as, otherwise, the tin foil will stick to the cake and pull some of the batter away from it thus ruining the look of the cake top.

The cake is done when it is firm to the touch and a cake tester or wooden skewer inserted into the cake center comes out relatively clean but with some moisture on it. The cake should not, however, be doughy. I generally start testing my cake about ½ hour before its designated baking time is up, then check it at 15-minute intervals until it is done.  The blue cake tester in the photo below is actually a cake thermometer.  If the tip of the thermometer turns bright red after having been inserted into the center of the cake for 5 seconds, the cake is done.

Cake Testers
Cake Testers

Cool the cake for about 40 minutes before carefully removing it from the pan and transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely. Because a fruit cake is a dense cake, this will take several hours or overnight.

Storing and Mellowing/Ripening the Cake

Once the cake has cooled, I brush a light coating of rum or brandy – whatever I have used in the cake – all over the cake. This adds more flavour and helps to maintain the cake’s moisture.

I then wrap the cake in cheesecloth (which can also be soaked in liquor) followed by a double layer of plastic wrap and double of tin foil.

The cake is then placed in a sealed bag and stored it in a cool, dry place to mellow or ripen, a process of time that allows the cake’s flavours to mix and mingle. I leave the cake stored at a very cool room temperature for 3-4 weeks, giving it a weekly nightcap by brushing another coating of the liquor all over the cake and re-wrapping it. After letting the cake mellow, I remove the cheesecloth and keep the cake wrapped in plastic wrap and tin foil inside a sealed bag and store it in the refrigerator or freeze it. It’s important to let the cake ripen first at cool room temperature as it won’t mellow further once refrigerated or frozen.

Slicing the Cake

I find the fruitcake slices easier from the refrigerator than at room temperature as it is a bit firmer when chilled. I recommend using a sharp, flat-edged knife to cut the cake as a serrated knife, for example, may pull the fruit during cutting, creating a ragged, uneven edge.

Making the first cut!
Making the first cut!

I cut each slab, across the full width of the cake, a good ½” wide. It needs to be a good width in order for it to hold together as it is being sliced.

DSC07723-001

For suggested serving size, I recommend slicing each slab into pieces that are about 1¼” wide.

 

Dark Fruitcake

Ingredients:

7 oz seeded raisins (i.e., Lexia)
7 oz golden raisins
7 oz cup sultana raisins
3 oz dates, chopped
2 oz currants
9 oz mixed glazed fruit
4 oz red glazed cherries
4 oz green glazed cherries
3 oz citron
2 oz mixed peel
⅔ cup rum
½ cup flour

2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp mace
½ tsp nutmeg

½ lb butter
¼ cup white sugar
1½ cups brown sugar
4 extra large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond flavouring
2½ tbsp molasses
½ cup strawberry jam

Method:

Measure fruit and transfer to a large bowl. Mix well. Pour ⅔ cup of rum over fruit. Stir to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand for  24-48 hours to macerate the fruit, stirring occasionally.

Prepare 8-inch square fruitcake pan that is 3 inches deep and has a removable bottom: Lightly spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Line the pan, bottom and sides, with brown paper or parchment paper. Lightly spray the paper.

Preheat oven to 275°F.

Sift together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

Sifted Dry Ingredients
Sifted Dry Ingredients

Using the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy.

Add the white sugar. Beat. Add the brown sugar and beat well, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure sugar is all incorporated.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the vanilla and almond flavouring followed by the molasses. Mix thoroughly. Mix in the strawberry jam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined into batter. Transfer batter to very large bowl. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup of flour (listed above in first set of ingredients) over the macerated fruit and toss ingredients lightly and quickly.

Add the floured fruit to the batter and mix thoroughly.

Transfer batter by large spoonfuls into the prepared baking pan. Use a knife to evenly spread the batter in the pan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add a few cherries as decorations to the top of the cake, if desired.

Place a small pan of water on the lower shelf in the oven. Bake fruitcake in lower third of the oven for about 5¾ hours or until cake is firm to the touch and cake tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and place on rack. Let cake cool in pan for about 40 minutes before carefully removing from pan and letting rest on cooling rack.

Let cake cool completely before brushing with rum and wrapping in cheesecloth, followed by plastic wrap and tin foil, then storing in a sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry area. Remove wrapping and brush cake top and sides with rum once a week. For best flavour, let cake “age” for at least 3-4 weeks before cutting and serving.

Yield: 1 – 6 lb cake

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