Monday, December 16, 2013

FRUITCAKE TOO GOOD TO RECYCLE!

كيكة الفواكه المجففة

Kekat il-Fawakih il-Mujaffafa


Delicious cake, full of goodness. Do not give it away! 
  

When I first cam to the US I was puzzled by the jokes about fruitcakes, and how they are the most recycled Christmas items, as my past experience with fruitcakes in Iraq was quite to the contrary. At Christmas time our Christian neighbors used to send us a plateful of fruitcake slices, deliciously aromatic, studded with raisins and chopped walnut and dates. Year round, simpler types of fruitcakes baked in loaf pans were always available for purchase from bakeries, or often baked at home in bundt/ring pans.

Admittedly, some of the fruitcakes I have tasted do indeed need to by recycled: no flavor, too sweet and dense, with way too much dried fruits, most of which artificially colored. It does not have to be made like this. A fruitcake with balanced texture and taste is the most wonderful cake, packed with goodness, what with all the natural fruits and nuts it contains.

After many attempt over the years, I managed to come up with this recipe, which is not cloyingly sweet, with reasonable amount of fat, and deliriously aromatic.



4¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
3 rounded teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons ground cardamom
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¾ cup vegetable oil (such as canola)
1 ½ cups sugar
6 large eggs (= 1 ¼ cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1⅓ cups milk

6 cups (2 lb+4oz) dried fruits like raisins, chopped apricots, figs, dates and prunes
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
½ cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup toasted walnut, broken to pieces
½ cup ground toasted almond
Preheat oven 375°F

1. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

2. In a big bowl, beat oil and sugar, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla.

3. Add flour mixture in 4 batches alternately with milk. Do not over mix.

4. Put the prepared dried fruits in a big bowl, and mix them with the coconut, ½ cup of the walnut and the ground almond.

5. Add the dried fruit-mix into the cake batter and mix with a large spoon.

6. Grease and flour the baking pan. For this cake, I usually use one long loaf pan 16-by-4-by-4½ inch. Two regular loaf pans will also do. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with the remaining ½ cup walnut. Spoon the batter into the pan and level the surface.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for about 70 minutes or until golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

8. Take the cake out of the oven and put the pan on a rack and let the cake cool completely in the pan. Then invert it and set it aside for a couple of hours before slicing it.

If wrapped well, this cake can stay good in the refrigerator for more than a week. It also freezes very well. I usually slice the cake into serving size pieces, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and keep them in the freezer, and use as needed.
Enjoy!
                    


For more on the history of making fruitcakes in ancient Iraq, with Sumerian recipes, go to my website iraqicookbook.com
                 

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