Kerala Plum Cake or Christmas fruit cake is a rich, dense and moist cake famous in the Southern part of India (Kerala) which is traditionally served during Christmas time. There are few popular brands of these cakes available in Kerala which people religiously buy during Christmas time. Local Bakeries bake tons of plum cakes during Christmas and New Year time and this is exigent with some red wine during the Christmas feast in typical Central Travancore Christian families. The authentic Kerala Plum cake is made with loads of dry fruits soaked in either Rum/Brandy with a blend of spice mix. The aged soaked fruits and caramel syrup gives the flavor and dark color for the traditional Kerala Cake. The labyrinth steps and longer list of ingredients coerce one to rely on the Plum cake from local bakers. Now days there are several variations to these cakes with fewer ingredients and less alcohol or no alcohol.
I have been making this cake for the past couple of years and it’s a no fail cake and my family and friends love it. To be honest, I was never a fan of Kerala Plum cake till my marriage. It was a boozy and spicy cake for me. My attitude towards the Plum cake changed when I found out that my hubby was a big fan of Kerala Plum cake. He used to make sure to get a cake whenever he visits my parents where Kerala stores stack these cakes on the front desk. I remember once when my son's baby sitter who offered me a small loaf of rum cake which was dark, fruity and full of flavor. It was an amazing cake, just like the Jamaican dark rum cake. If you go for cruise to the Caribbean islands, make sure to get one of the dark rum cakes, they are so addictive and tastes similar to the Kerala Plum cake. Since my hubby is a diehard fan of Plum cake, I was forced to give it a try in my kitchen.
My first attempt was a flop. It turned out to be a very hard cake even though the taste was awesome. I never gave up my experiment with Plum cake. The next attempt was a success with a bang. Since then, I follow this recipe word by word which I came up by tweaking few recipes from our family and my friends. I highly recommend you to read the recipe and notes to the end before you start baking the cake. If you strictly follow the recipe without improvising, I can guarantee you that you will get a most flavorful Kerala Plum Cake. Once you are confident with the first trial, you can certainly improvise the recipe in the next attempts. I am warning you because I learnt it in a hard way by ruining the cake in my first attempt and you don’t want to waste all the dry fruits and the amount of effort you took to make it.
I had made the Plum cake using red wine which equally imparts the flavor as the Rum/brandy version. Once you start making your own Plum cake, you would never like to buy one from the bakery. The homemade Plum cake is less sweet and more flavorful than the store bought Plum cake. This recipe yields a soft yet dense cake which is very moist and goes well with a glass of red wine or Masala Chai/Tea. The aroma of the freshly baked Plum Cake is so tempting that you cannot wait to cut the cake soon after baking. But hold your horses and let the cake mature in flavor. Trust me the fruit of patience is rewarding and you will thank me for waiting. I usually bake the cake beginning of December and have it wrapped and sit till Christmas for cutting, which helps to develop the right flavor.
I usually soak a big jar of dry fruits and make several 6 inch cakes and share with family during Christmas season. You can make these and wrap in nice Christmas themed boxes and give to your family and friends as a Christmas gift with other edible homemade goodies.
This is my trusted no fail Kerala Plum cake recipe that yields the best Plum cake that suits my family's taste each time when I bake it.
The recipe is using US measurement standards. Here is the conversion chart you can use to convert it to Metric measurement equivalents.
Yields - a 9'' round or Bundt cake
To Soak the Fruits
3 cups - chopped dry fruits (Black &Golden raisins,Black Currants,Prunes,Dates,cranberries, cherries, Pineapple, Apricot, Cashews, almonds)
1 1/2 - 2 cups - red wine or use enough to soak the fruits
1 1/4 cup - granulated Sugar
3/4 cup - hot water
1 cup or 2 sticks - butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups - powdered sugar
4 - eggs yolks
2 ½ cups - All purpose flour
2 tsp - baking powder
1 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - Cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp - Clove powder
1/2 tsp - Cardamom powder
1/4 tsp - Nutmeg powder
1 tsp - Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup - hot water
3 cups - dry fruits soaked in wine
4 - egg whites
2 tbsp - powdered sugar
For Soaking the fruits
- Soak the fruits in the red wine at least 3-4 weeks in advance. Keep them in an airtight container; once a week stir the mix with a clean dry spoon to make sure the fruits are getting soaked well.
- Take a heavy bottom pan and melt 1 1/4 cup sugar on low flame. When it started to get light brown color, use a long wooden spoon to mix the sugar well. The sugar needs to get brown in color without burning. Lower the flame and add the hot water to the melted sugar. Be careful, as the melted sugar is very hot and starts to splutter. The melted sugar will start to crystallize. Increase the flame to medium heat and let the syrup boil. This will help the crystallized sugar to melt again. Once all the sugar is melted. Turn off the flame and let the syrup cool.
For the Fruit Cake
- Preheat Oven to 350°F.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices twice and keep aside.
- Beat the butter with powdered sugar till smooth and creamy using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer. Add the egg yolks one at a time until the mix is creamy and fluffy. Add the Vanilla essence and Caramel syrup and smoothly combine everything together.
- Add 1/4 cup of hot water to the pan where the caramel syrup was made and bring to boil to dissolve any left over caramel. Let this liquid cool for 5 - 6 minutes. Add this light liquid to egg butter mix and beat for 30 seconds.
- Now add the dry ingredients slowly and beat to mix well.
- Strain the wine soaked fruits and reserve the wine. Fold in the fruits into the batter.
- Beat the Egg Whites and 2 tbsp. of powdered sugar in a separate clean mixing bowl until soft peaks are formed. If using a stand mixer, attach the whipping whisk for this step. Gently fold in the whipped egg whites into the cake batter without deflating much of the whipped egg whites.
- Pour the cake batter into greased cake pan and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hr or until a tooth pick/ wooden skewer comes out clean when tested on the center of the cake.
- Take the cake out from the oven and drizzle 2-3 tbsp. of the reserved wine over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.
- Transfer the cake from pan to a wire rack and brush the reserved wine over the cake.
- Wrap the cake with plastic wrap and cover with an aluminum foil and keep in cold dry place. In between you can brush the cake with left over wine for more flavor till ready to use.
- The dark color of the cake comes from the caramel syrup. Make sure that the syrup is not burned but has the right color. A burned syrup can ruin the flavor of the cake. The color of the caramel syrup should look similar to the dark vanilla extract.
- It is very important to whip the egg whites separate and fold them into the batter at the end, otherwise the cake will turn out to be hard.
- Make sure that the butter is at room temperature but not melted. The butter, egg yolks and powdered sugar when beaten together should yield a creamy yellow fluffy mix. Any lumps of butter can ruin the texture of the cake. I usually leave the butter 15/20 minutes outside at room temperature before starting to make the batter. While the butter gets to room temperature, you can get all other ingredients ready. The butter should be retaining the shape of the finger when pressed, that is the right consistency to start with.
- I used a dark metallic bundt pan to bake the cake. The cooking time varies from light aluminum pan to dark metallic pans. Light metals uses less time than dark metallic pans and glass baking dishes.
- The longer you soak the fruits, the more flavorful the cake will be. If you don't have enough time, just soak the fruits is warm wine and bake the cake.
- The dry fruits should be cut into smaller pieces so that they won't sink to the bottom of the cake. You can mix 1-2 tbsp of flour to the fruits before mixing into the batter. This helps to the fruits from sinking to the bottom.
- I usually bake this cake during winter time, so keeping them in a dark cold place keeps the cake stay longer without spoiling the cake. If you are not sure how to store it, keep it refrigerated.
- Since its a butter based cake and has lots of flavor from wine and spice mix, I prefer to warm up the cake for 10 - 20 seconds before serving. This enhances the flavor of the cake.
- This is not a soft fluffy cake, it has a dense texture with lots of fruits and nuts. Due to this texture, it has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan. Make sure that you use a non stick pan or grease the pan well or use parchment paper for easy release.
- Over baking the cake makes the cake hard. Under cooking the cake will result in sticky cake. So it is important to bake the cake to at least 1 hr if using dark metallic pan. Opening the oven door in between can cause cracks and a dip in the center of the cake, so wait for at least 50 - 55 minutes before checking the readiness of the cake.
- If you are planning to store the cake for long time, make sure you use the same amount of sugar in the recipe, otherwise the cake will spoil fast.