Love them or lump them, plum cakes are as ubiquitous as carols, candy cane and Christmas trees this season. Whether they are rich, moist offerings that exude a heady aroma when unwrapped or the crumbly kind masquerading as the real deal, there is no escaping a slice wherever you go.
Every baker has their signature secret where plum cakes are concerned, but they all agree on one thing — the longer you soak the dry fruits the better! While it may seem stupendous to those who believe in ready batter mixes, the serious baker keeps dry fruits soaked for up to a year; sometimes even longer.
Srivatsan Sriram of Sri’s Cake Lab in Bengaluru says he keeps dry fruits soaking for at least six months. “I follow a 90-year-old recipe from a close family friend and it is amazing. I use almost 11-12 kinds of dry fruits including pecans, almonds, black currants, candied orange and lemon peels in my cakes,” says Srivatsan, who is preparing Grinch-themed plum cupcakes this year, apart from rich plum cakes and almond iced plum cakes.
Once prepared, the mix has to be kept in a cool, dry place and topped up with more spirit once the dry fruits have soaked up the liquid. “First, I layer the nuts and fruits in a dish. Later, after a month and a half, I use a dry, wooden spoon to stir in the mixture to keep it from spoiling,” says Srivatsan.
Maria D’Souza, a home baker in Mangalore, uses only raisins for her plum cakes. “I soak the raisins for three months before I start making plum cakes. I do add a little tutti frutti to the batter and sprinkle a few cashews just to dress the cake.”
For teetotallers and those wanting a child-friendly version of plum cake, Srivatsan suggests freshly pressed orange juice — a recipe he came up with on his own.
If all the talk of plum cakes has got to you, and you rue not soaking dry fruits well in advance, D Vijaya, a retired Government employee from Bengaluru has the simplest recipe for a plum cake you can execute even on Christmas Day. “It is a five-ingredient recipe that has been in our family for a while. What makes it simple is that you need to measure out the same weight for all the contents — butter, sugar, flour, eggs and tutti frutti or dry fruits.”
“Cream the butter and sugar first, slowly adding in the flour and eggs. Dredge the dry fruits with flour to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan and fold them into the batter. You could add a little caramelised sugar into the batter for a dark brown colour,” she adds.
Bake them or buy them, ‘tis plum cake season so enjoy them while they last!