Nothing yells Christmas as much as Plum Cakes do. You know the season of joy is here when you see plum cakes all over town as well as now on Instagram and Facebook. So what’s really the story behind Plum Cakes and Christmas? We sure are as curious as you are. Read on & know the history, origin and significance of plum cakes, especially during Christmas.
Christmas cake is an English tradition that began as plum porridge. People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve, using it to line their stomachs after a day of fasting. Soon dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture, and eventually it turned into Christmas pudding. In the 16th century, oatmeal was removed from the original recipe, and butter, wheat flour and eggs were added. These ingredients helped hold the mixture together and in what resulted in a boiled plum cake. Richer families that had ovens began making fruit cakes with marzipan, an almond sugar paste, for Easter. For Christmas, they made a similar cake using seasonal dried fruit and spices. The spices represented the exotic eastern spices brought by the Wise Men. This cake became known as “Christmas cake.”
The cake stayed too, even though it was very close to being lost in the reformation period of the late 19th century when Queen Victoria banned the feast of the twelfth night. The confectioners who had stocked their pantries up for the twelfth night celebration decided to use their stock and bake cakes for Christmas instead, otherwise they would suffer losses. The tradition caught on. Around the same time, families of men working in British colonies in Australia, America, Canada and other parts of the world began to make their cakes weeks, or even months, in advance and send it to them as a part of the Christmas hamper along with wine and presents and that is how the first plum cake traveled out of England to around the world.
Christmas cakes are made many different ways, but generally they are variations on classic fruitcakes. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy, leavened, unleavened, etc. They are made in many different shapes, with frosting, glazing, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or plain. Christmas Plum cakes are made of either dried fruits like grapes, currants, raisins or prunes or with fresh fruits depending on one’s taste and preference along with plums as the primary ingredient. Most people prefer adding rum or brandy infused dried fruits in the cake while some may prefer to bake their cake without any alcohol. All Christmas cakes are made in advance. Many make them in November, keeping the cake upside down in an airtight container. A small amount of brandy, sherry or whisky is poured into holes in the cake every week until Christmas. This process is called “feeding” the cake.
This rich cake, or pudding, was made a few weeks before Christmas, usually at the beginning of advent, when the period of abstinence began, and was saved until the twelfth and final day of celebration. It was served upside down, garnished with a sprig of holly, after the final celebratory meal. It is not clear, however, how it came to be called the plum pudding, or plum cake. Some believe that raisins, or currants, were also referred to as plums in England. The recipe was abundant in raisins, hence the name. Yet others believe that dried plums, or prunes, were the main ingredient of the original porridge, and were gradually replaced by other, more exotic dried fruits. Hence, the name stayed and became synonymous to Christmas.
So, how does one make the famous Christmas Plum Cake at home? While there are many variations based on the location, we here bring to you the recipe of Kerala Plum Cake that is famous and savored all over India, especially during Christmas.
KERALA PLUM CAKE:
- 2 cups All Purpose Flour / Maida
- 1¼ cup Sugar
- 250 grams Soft Unsalted Butter
- 5 Large Eggs
- ½ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Dry Ginger Powder / Chukku Podi
- 1 tsp Cinnamon Powder / Pattai Podi
- Cloves Powder / Krambu Podi
- ½ tsp Nutmeg Powder
- 1 tsp Cardamom Powder / Yelakai Podi
- 2 tsp Vanilla Essence
- ½ cup Sugar
- ¼ cup Water
- 1 cup Dates chopped finely
- ½ cup Apricot chopped finely
- ½ cup Prunes chopped finely
- ½ cup Cherries chopped finely
- ½ cup Kishmish / Sultanas
- 1 cup Raisins / Black Currants
- 1 cup Nuts chopped finely cashew, walnuts, almonds, pista
- 1 cup Dark Rum
- 2 tbsp All Purpose Flour / Maida for tossing dry fruits
Preheat the oven to 180 degree C. Start by soaking dry fruits in rum for a day. I did it for 2 days. By this time the fruits will absorb the rum completely. Take two baking pan and line it with parchment paper, butter the sides and bottom of the pan and set aside. Take sugar in a saucepan and heat it on low heat. Now it will start to crystalize. Keep stirring and it will slowly start to melt. Keep heating on low heat till it gets a nice dark color. Now take it off the heat and add in water and heat till the sugar dissolves again. Set aside to cool. Take dry fruits in a bowl and toss it with 2 tbsp of flour. Set aside. Sieve flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, spice powders and set aside. Take butter, sugar, vanilla in a bowl and beat using an electric beater till it is creamy. Add in 2 eggs first and beat until creamy. Add 3 eggs and beat again until creamy. Now add in half of the flour mix and half of the caramel. Fold gently. Now add remaining flour and remaining caramel and fold again. Add in dry fruit mix and fold gently. Pour this in the prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 mins. Remove it and let it cool. Now invert it and peel off the parchment. Slice and serve.
Go ahead and shop for a wide range of dry fruits from our website and make your own Plum Cake at home this Christmas!