We're back from China!
We just arrived home yesterday, and once we're fully unpacked and have downloaded all our photos, we'll share some tales with you. Needless to say, it was a wonderful and adventurous few weeks away. Now we're both eager to get back into the kitchen and take a break from our endless parade of noodles and dumplings and rice.
It seems that the Christmas season exploded while we were gone. Greeting us at the airport were sparkly trees, big faux packages and holiday songs on the loudspeaker. The houses up and down our block are already done up in strings of lights and festive wreaths.
So, mere hours back from our trip, we already have holiday cooking on the mind. And for us, holiday cooking involves one recipe that we're eager to return to each year: Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Fruit Cake.
We had never conceived of the idea of a chocolate take on fruit cake until we were watching the Food Network one lazy weekend morning several years ago. And it was there that we first saw Nigella make her chocolate fruit cake. It was love at first sight.
We made it that same year, and the year after, and the year after that as well. And once we go to Tennessee for Christmas, we'll be making it again this year. We just love the unexpectedly delicious combination of dried fruit, chocolate and citrus. It makes for a delicious cake, evocative of the season and so different from hackneyed, store-bought fruitcake.
One note on cooking: Nigella recommends topping the cake with dark chocolate-covered coffee beans, and then blinging it with edible glitter. Feel free to do whatever you want. We always add the coffee beans, because we like the flavor they add. The glitter is beautiful -- if you're serving this cake at a party, it's a must! -- but it doesn't add any flavor.
We only have a handful of food traditions, and this cake is at the top of that list. We're certain that if you make this cake, you'll start thinking about it again next year, once the weather turns cool and garlands reappear.
Do you have dishes you make each December? Other holiday traditions? We'd love to hear about them.
In the meantime, we'll be sifting through the nearly 1,000 China photos we downloaded when we got home. And enjoying a nice, plain green salad.
Total Time: 3 hr 30 min
Yield: 1 (8 by 3 1/2-inch) cake
- 12 1/4 ounces (350 grams) dried soft prunes, chopped
- 8 3/4 ounces (250 grams) raisins
- 4 1/2 ounces(125 grams) currants
- 6 1/4 ounces (175 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 6 1/4 (175 grams) dark muscovado sugar
- 6 1/4 fluid ounces (175 ml) honey
- 4 1/2 fluid ounces (125 ml) coffee liqueur
- 2 oranges, zested and juiced
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 2 tablespoons good quality cocoa
- 3 free-range eggs, beaten
- 5 1/4 ounces (150 grams) plain flour
- 2 1/2 ounces (75 grams) ground almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1-ounce (25 grams) dark chocolate-covered coffee beans
- Edible glitter
- Edible gold mini balls
- About 10 edible gold stars
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
Line the sides and bottom of an 8 by 3 1/2-inch deep, round loose-bottomed cake tin with a layer of reusable silicon baking parchment. When lining the tin with the parchment, cut the material into strips that are twice as high as the tin itself (it is easier to use two shorter strips of parchment, than one long strip); the height of the strips protects the cake from catching on the outside of the cake tin.
Place the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, coffee liqueur, orange zest and juice, mixed spice and cocoa into a large wide saucepan. Heat the mixture until it reaches a gentle boil, stirring the mixture as the butter melts. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, the mixture will have cooled a little. Add the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda, and mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients have combined.
Carefully pour the fruitcake mixture into the lined cake tin. Transfer the cake tin to the oven and bake for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, or until the top of the cake is firm but will has a shiny and sticky look. At this point, if you insert a sharp knife into the middle of the cake, the cake should still be a little uncooked in the middle.
Place the cake on a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled, remove it from the tin.
To decorate, place the chocolate-covered coffee beans in the centre of the cake and arrange the gold stars around the perimeter of the top of the cake. Then sprinkle some gold mini-balls over the whole cake and sprinkle the top with edible glitter.