Christmas Fruit Cake – dark, rich and boozy

A good, rich, dark and sometimes boozy Christmas Fruit Cake is a must-have on every Christmas platter. Studded with dry fruit soaked in rum and spiced with beautiful holiday flavours, this recipe is sure to win you over.

Christmas Fruit Cake
Christmas Fruit Cake

In most Christian homes along the south west coast of India, a good Dark Fruit cake makes an appearance at Christmas and all special occasions like engagement parties, weddings, anniversaries, Communion celebrations and so on. It also holds a very prominent spot on a typical Christmas platter, or what is locally referred to as a Kuswar platter. (Kuswar=Christmas sweets)

Most people I know enjoy a good fruit cake, but very often, find it too tedious to make one at home. They settle for a commercially made cake, which very often has a number of additives including caramel colour to give it a deep, dark colour.

Today, I’m sharing with you, my favourite Fruit Cake recipe. This recipe is a little longer than most other cake recipes. However, I can assure you it is a fairly simple process and the end result is so good, it’s well worth all the extra effort. To help make the process easier, I’ve broken this recipe down into a few parts. Some of them can actually be done days before you’d like to bake this cake. The best part is, this cake tastes best if it’s allowed to rest for a couple of days, so it’s a perfect one to make ahead.

Step 1 – Soaking the fruit

This recipe calls for 500gms of mixed dry fruit. In my assortment, I’ve used raisins, sultanas, currants, mixed peel, candied / glacéd cherries and candied ginger. You can use any dry fruits of your choosing, in the proportion you’d like them. It just needs to add up to about 500 grams all together.

Dry fruit assortment
Dry fruit assortment

Chop the larger pieces of fruit down to make slicing your finished cake easier. Doing this also makes for a better eating experience, in my opinion. Place all the fruit in an airtight glass jar, top it off with some rum and set it aside in a cool dark place. The fruit needs atleast 24 hours to soak and rehydrate. The longer is steeps in the rum, the better the results. This can be done upto a year in advance.

Soaking the fruit
Soaking the fruit

Step 2 – Making the caramel

The 2nd step is making the caramel. There are many ways to make a caramel. For this recipe, you’re looking for one that gives you a slightly more fluid consistency. I’m using a 2:1 ratio – 2 parts sugar to one part water and I find that this gives me the perfect results for this recipe. You can make this caramel even a few days before you want to bake your cake. Simply let it cool down completely and store in an airtight glass jar. If you’re making this the caramel, the day that you’re baking the fruit cake, make sure the caramel has cooled down completely before you add it to the batter.

Christmas Fruit Cake - Making the caramel
Making the caramel


Step 3 – Making the cake

Making the batter is a very simple process. It’s just like making any other cake. You need to ensure all your ingredients are at room temperature. In this recipe, I’m using dark brown sugar to help lend a darker colour to the cake. If you can’t find dark brown sugar, regular white sugar will work too. Just make sure you use a fine grain sugar or simply powder your regular white sugar before adding it to the batter.

Sometimes, you find that the fruit in a fruit cake like this one isn’t evenly distributed. Mix the fruit into the flour – baking powder mix to ensure that the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom of the cake.

Also, in this recipe, I’m using treacle to darken my cake and give it an added boost of flavour. If you can’t find treacle, use some molasses instead. I’m not using any artificial colours. A lot of the commercially available dark fruit cakes use caramel colour. If you’d like to, you can add some to the batter.

Mixing the fruit and flour
Mixing the fruit and flour
Christmas Fruit Cake - Adding the fruit to the cake batter
Mixing the batter
ready for the oven
Ready for the oven

I’m going to feed this cake only once with some dark rum, just as it comes out of the oven. This will help the cake soak up all the rum.

Feeding the cake
Feeding the cake

While you can cut into the cake as soon as it cools dow, for best results, I recommend atleast letting it stand overnight before you cut into it.

Once all the Hard Yakka’s out of the way, sit back and enjoy your stunning Fruit Cake.


Christmas Fruit Cake - Sliced
Christmas Fruit Cake – Sliced

Rose Cookies – Kokkisan

With Christmas fast approaching, today I thought I’d share with you a recipe for Rose Cookies. Rose Cookies, Kokkisan or Achu Murukku – these are a few names these little treats go by in different parts of the South of India. If you’ve not had these before, imagine amazingly crisp, deep-fried, sweet cookies. They are so more-ish. Which is why it’s a good thing this batch yields quite a few cookies.

Rose Cookies
Rose Cookies

Let’s move on to the cookies themselves, shall we? While they’re not difficult to make, the batter can be very temperamental and finicky. This is one Kuswar treat I personally find the most trying. The most important part of this recipe is the batter. It takes a little patience and tweaking to get it to just the right consistency. But boy, once you do, churning these cookies out is a breeze.

The batter –

Are you ready to give these a try. Let me walk you though the process. Putting the batter together initially is a very simple process and it just a matter of whisking all of the ingredients together. The one thing you need to watch out for, is the amount of liquid that goes into it. You’re looking for a batter that isn’t too thick or too thin. It’s a Goldilocks kinda situation; you have to get it just right. A huge saving grace is that the batter is forgiving and can be easily fixed.

Rose Cookies - batter
Rose Cookies – batter

If its too thick, it wont cling to the cookie iron at all. When this happens, gradually add small amounts of coconut milk (if you’re out of coconut milk, you can use water) and whisk it in. On the other hand, if its too thin, it’ll stick to the iron and won’t release into the oil, even after you try to separate it using a fork or a skewer. To fix this, simply add a little all purpose flour to the batter, a little at a time and whisk it through and try frying it again.

The frying process –

Now that you have you’re batter sorted out, you need to keep a few things in mind while frying these cookies. Once the oil heats up, maintain it by using a medium to medium low heat. If the oil is too hot, the cookies will brown too quickly. The cookie iron needs to be heated well for it to release the cookies into the oil. The first few cookies are like a tester batch. You may have to sacrifice a couple of them while you figure out the right consistency.

Take the cookies out of the oil when they’re a little lighter than you’d like it. They tend to darken as they cool.

With these pointers in mind, you are now equipped to make a beautiful batch of these Rose Cookies.


If you’re looking for more Kuswar recipes to make this Christmas, here are a few of my favorite recipes you might enjoy too –
1) Kulkuls
2) Date Rolls
3) Baath / Badca
4) Coconut Toffee
5) Milk Cream
6) Coconut Ladoos
7) Guava Cheese / Perad
8) Nankatais (Eggless)
9) Marzipan (Eggless)
10) No-cook Almond Marzipan
11) Marzipan – My favorite recipe
12) Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge
13) Chana Doce

Gingerbread Fudge – a quick and easy recipe

Gingerbread Fudge
Gingerbread Fudge

Today’s Gingerbread Fudge is a great recipe to have on hand for Christmas. It is quick and easy, and results in a creamy fudge that is beautifully spiced with all the Christmas flavours. So if a combination of white chocolate and the flavours of a traditional gingerbread is your thing, stick around for the recipe.

With Christmas fast approaching, a lot of folks have started with all kinds of prep work. From deep cleaning and decorating their homes, shopping for the Holiday season and planning their social calendars, most houses see frenzied levels of activity at this time of the year. It’s because of this, one needs to have a few easy and delicious recipes to fall back on.

This gingerbread fudge recipe ticks all those boxes. With prep and cook time of mere minutes, the hardest part of this recipe is leaving the fudge alone, to cool and set. Sounds perfect, right? Well, it is. And you’re left with a nice batch of fudge that just melts in your mouth.

And if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere like I am, we’re headed straight for summer. And it gets really hot here in Sydney. So while everyone in the North is baking up a storm, these kind of recipes work out perfectly for us. This way we get to enjoy those beautiful flavours of Christmas without having to turn the oven on.

This fudge can be made a few days ahead. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container lined with baking / parchment paper. I suggest placing a piece of baking / parchment paper between layers as well, to prevent the pieces of fudge from potentially sticking to each other.

Now, if dark chocolate is more your thing, check out my Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Fudge recipe. It is absolutely divine.

The ingredients –

This list is an easy one to get a hold off. You will need condensed milk, white chocolate, vanilla, molasses, ground spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) and don’t forget the butter.

ingredients
Gingerbread Fudge ingredients
ingredients1
Gingerbread Fudge ingredients

Let’s get cooking –

Line a 9×9 inch cake pan with some foil, leaving a little overhang to help take the fudge out once it has set. Set this aside to use later.

Place the condensed milk and butter in a heavy bottomed pan on a medium low heat.

Add the molasses and vanilla. Mix through and add the white chocolate. Stir well to help the chocolate pieces melt.

Next, add the spice powders and stir well to incorporate.

Once all the chocolate has melted and the spice powders have been incorporated thoroughly, pour out onto the lined cake pan. Tap the pan gently a couple of times to get rid of any air bubbles.

Leave it on the kitchen counter and let it come to room temperature.

Refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight to set completely.

Cut into squares and serve.

Chana Doce

When you think of Chickpeas, a lot of people think of savory recipes. Have you tried making sweets with a chickpea base? If you haven’t, you really ought to. This Chana Doce is a Goan sweet served at Christmas time, weddings and special occasions. It is made with chana dal and coconut and mildly flavored with cardamom. There are heaps of Indian sweets that use some form of chickpeas as a base, like these Besan Laddoos or even these sweet flatbreads called Puran Poli. These two are just the tip of the ice berg and I hope to try and bring you some more Chickpea deliciousness in the future.

Today, I’m sharing with you a Goan sweet recipe. This Chana Doce is a Goan delicacy and makes an appearance at Christmas time, weddings and special occasions. The recipe calls for chana dal, which is hulled and split chickpeas. Everytime we visit Goa, we always bring some back home with us. A good Goan bakery is paradise if you have a sweet tooth. Our typical haul would include this Chana Doce and a Coconut variant, the ever popular Bebinca, Dodol, Baath, Bolinhas and Pinag. I think that about covers it. Our favorite place to buy these treats is a quaint little bakery in Mapusa called Simona’s. They also have outlets in Porvorim and Sinquerim. What’s your go-to place to buy your favourite Goan treats?

It’s hard for us to get back to Goa as often as we did when we were in Mumbai, so I’ve decided to try and make these delicacies at home. And after some experimenting, I’ve finally got a recipe for Chana Doce that I’m happy with. This is a softer version of the sweet and just melts in your mouth. The commercially available one is a little harder and has a slightly longer shelf life, but its slightly more difficult to make. We actually quite like this softer version and hope you do too.


Easy Mini Cheesecakes with a Strawberry Topping

Cheesecake is one of our favorite desserts at home. My last couple of birthday cakes have been cheesecakes. That alone should tell you how much I love it. But do you know whats even better than a cheesecake? Little mini cheesecakes, of course. Jokes aside, these are the perfect option for a party or even for the family. You can make them a day ahead of the party and keep them refrigerated. They are easy to serve and could serve to help portion control too. And they are super delicious as well. Now that’s a dessert that ticks all the boxes for me.





Easy Mini Cheesecakes with a Strawberry Topping
Makes 8 mini cheesecakes

For the base – 
120g Digestive biscuits
30g butter

For the cheesecake – 
250g cream cheese
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
100g double cream
2 eggs
A tiny pinch of salt

For the topping –
1/2 cup strawberry jam
Fresh strawberries

For the base


Melt the butter and keep aside.


Blitz the biscuits in a food processor till you get a coarse crumb texture. Add the melted butter and blitz again to combine. This should now resemble wet sand.

For the filling – 


Beat the cream cheese till its creamy.

Add the sugar and and mix till it is well combined.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Now add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and salt and mix till combined.

Lastly, add the cream and mix till it has incorporated with the rest of the ingredients.

To assemble – 


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Line a cupcake tray with paper cases.

Place about 1 tbsp. or so of the biscuit crumb in each case. Using the back of a spoon, pack it down and flatten it.

Top it with the cheesecake filling about 2/3 of the way.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or till the outside has set and the middle still has a little jiggle to it. (You may find some of them puff up a bit or develop a little crack. That is fine.)

Take it out of the oven and let it cool down completely.

Warm the jam over some medium heat, just to loosen it a bit. You don’t need to simmer or boil it. This took me about a minute.

Spoon a little jam over each of the mini cheesecakes.

Top with some fresh berries.

Refrigerate for 2-4 hours to set. You can leave it to set overnight as well.

Enjoy!!!

How to make Custard from scratch … and a layered custard and jelly dessert

Today’s post is a walk down memory lane for me. As a kid, this dessert made an appearance at a lot of parties and gatherings and on other special occasions too. My mum makes a version of this. However, back in the day, we always used custard powder to make our custard. And I used to love it. When we moved away from India, initially I found it a little hard to find the custard powder that we used. So I did the only other thing I could think of. I started working on a custard recipe. After a few attempts and tweaks, I came up with a recipe that I was happy with. It’s a simple, easy and super delicious one. Well, you don’t have to take my word for it. Try it out for yourself and see. And then come back and let me know what you thought of it.

Once you make the custard, there are so many ways you can use it. Make a thinner version and pour it over your favorite dessert. You can serve this custard with some fresh fruit or use it to make a fresh fruit tart (I’ll share how I make mine very soon). Or you can do what I did, I made a layered dessert and serve it with some jelly. It was my first attempt at serving it up this way.  If you don’t want to make individual servings, you can set your custard and jelly separately and let your guests help themselves to it.

Whichever way you decide to serve it up, you are going to love it.

Vanilla Custard 

4 egg yolks
3 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
A scant pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla till it is light and creamy.

Add the cornflour and whisk it in.

Next add the milk and whisk it in till it is well incorporated and is a uniform mix.

Place on a medium heat and cook, whisking continuously for about 15-18 minutes.

Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate to set.

To make a layered dessert – 


You’ll need to whip up one portion of Jelly and a fruit salad

For the fruit salad –
1 pack of Raspberry Jelly
Assortment of fresh fruit, chopped into little pieces (Do NOT use pineapple, kiwi or papaya / pawpaw as your jelly will not set.)

Pour the jelly granules in a bowl.

Add 250ml boiling hot water. Stir to dissolve the Jelly granules.

Add 200ml cold water and stir through.

When the jelly has reached room temperature, add some chopped fruit.

Please note, every Jelly brand may have to be prepared differently. So, please follow the instructions on your box of jelly to achieve the best results.

Layer the custard and jelly in your servingware and keep refrigerated till you’re ready to serve.

Enjoy chilled!

No-cook Almond Marzipan Recipe

I’ve been making marzipan at home for a little over 12 years now. I must admit that in the past, I have only made marzipan using cashew nuts. This is mainly because they were more widely available in Mumbai and were more affordable than almonds. Last Christmas, when I shared my favorite marzipan recipe here and on YouTube, the video got a lot of love. I also got a lot of questions about making marzipan using almonds. There were also requests for an eggless version of marzipan. Now I have previously shared a different recipe for an eggless (cashew nuts) version. But I decided that this year, in time for Easter, I would try out an eggless almond marzipan recipe and share it with you. After a little experimenting, and more marzipan than I know what to do with, I have, what I consider a really good recipe to share with you.

How do they both compare? Well I found that the cashewnut marzipan is lighter while the almond one is a little on the denser side. That being said, the almond version is super delicious. I think even more than the cashewnut one. Then, there’s also the fact that the almond one is a no-cook recipe. So, to sum up, I will still make my cashewnut version as it is a little easier to work with, but the almond one will be absolutely perfect to use in so many different ways. I’d love for you to try it out and tell me what you think of it.



No-cook Almond Marzipan
(Yields 250-260gms approx.)

1 cup raw, natural almonds
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp rose water (you can add a little more if needed)
1/2 tsp almond extract (you can add a little more if needed)

Place the almonds in a heatproof bowl.

Pour water from a recently boiled kettle over the almonds to cover the nuts. Leave the almonds to soak for a couple of minutes.

Drain the almonds and peel them. Place them on some kitchen paper or a clean kitchen towel to dry up. Let the almonds cool down completely.

In a high powered blender / food processor, blitz the almonds to a fine powder.

Place the almond powder in a large bowl. Add in the icing sugar. Mix it thoroughly till combined.

Add the rose water and almond extract and knead to form a dough / log.

Your marzipan is now ready to be used.

If you don’t need to use it immediately, you can wrap it in cling film and refrigerate till needed. It keeps for a couple of months. (Personally, I would just make this when needed, probably a couple of days ahead.)

NOTE: This marzipan is not a very sweet version. When the marzipan is formed, taste some of it. If you want it sweeter, simply add some more icing sugar and knead it in. 

My favourite Marzipan recipe

This version of marzipan is made using cashew seeds and is shaped into little colorful bites. It is the crowning glory of every Indian Christmas platter.

Marzipan
Marzipan
 
Today, I want to take a minute, right at the onset, to say “Thank you” from the bottom of my heart for all your support on my YouTube Channel. I am overwhelmed that so many of you want to watch my videos and try my recipes. A lot of you lovely folks have asked me to share my Marzipan recipe. 
 
The recipe that I’m sharing with you today, is my absolute favourite. Typically, Marzipan is made using Almonds. But in Goa(and India, in general), Cashew nuts / Cashew seeds are more easily and abundantly available than Almonds. So the Goans / Indians have simply swapped one for another. And the results are pretty spectacular. I always make my version using cashew seeds. You can use this recipe to form little shapes like you will see me do today, you can cover a cake with it, and I’ve also made Marzipan tarts in the past. The possibilities are endless. 
 


Marzipan
Yields: 1/4 kilo or 250g Marzipan
 
125g Cashew Nuts 
200g Sugar
1 egg white
1/2 tsp Almond essence
1/4 cup water
Food colours, as required
 
Soak the cashew nuts in some (room temperature) water for about 10 minutes. Drain, run some fresh water through the nuts, and drain them again.
 
Grind the cashew nuts, egg white and water to a fine paste.
 
Pour the ground paste, the almond essence and sugar into a large heavy pan. Place the pan on low-medium heat and stir to combine.
 
Cook the paste on a medium low heat, stirring continuously till it thickens and starts coming away from the pan. 
 
Use the water test to check if it is ready. Place some ice cold water in a small bowl and drop a 1/2 teaspoon of the sweet on it. If it firms up on cooling it is done. If it is still soft or too sticky, it needs more cooking.
 
As soon as it has cooked, pour the marzipan on a large plate and spread it out a little and leave it to cool down a little. Knead it to a dough while it is still warm.
 
Portion and colour the marzipan as desired. 
 
You can now shape it as needed or use it in any recipe that calls for it. 
 
If you making little shapes with the marzipan, once you de-mould it, place it on a plate and leave it to air dry for a while till it sets and is slightly firm to the touch. You can then place it in an airtight container and store. This should last you a couple of weeks if stored well. 
 
If the temperature is too high where you are, consider refrigerating it till needed.
 
Enjoy!!!

 

Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge

My Christmas Tree is up, the carols are playing and the air at home, especially in my kitchen is full of lovely aromas of Christmas sweets being made. This literally is the best time of the year. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love all things Christmas. Christmas sweets in my house, like any other Goan household, includes all sorts of traditional Goan recipes. Over the last few years, I’ve found myself including a couple of recipes that are more ‘recent’ for lack of a better word. Like this little gem I’m sharing with you today.

Most Goan Sweet recipes are a labor of love and usually require either hours of stirring on the stovetop or take hours to shape and form. And while I love them all and make most of them every year, I love having recipes like this Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge on hand. This recipe is a great one to have on hand. It uses just 4 ingredients and the cooking time is just a few minutes. And, after leaving it to set in the fridge for a few hours, you end up with a super delicious, decadent chocolate fudge. This time around, I’m using hazelnuts in the fudge and I’m happy to report that this fudge tastes very similar to the Ferrero Rocher chocolates you find in the shops, albeit, without the wafer. You can customize this fudge to suit your liking by swapping hazelnuts for any nuts that you prefer.

Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge


350g dark chocolate
100g hazelnuts
1 tin condensed milk (we get 395g tins here)
30g butter

Line a 9 inch square baking tray with some foil, leaving a little overhang on the sides and set aside.

Lightly roast the hazelnuts. Carefully remove any pieces of skin / peel that may have been left on. Let the nuts cool down completely.

Roughly chop the nuts or place them in a ziplock back and crush the nuts with a rolling pin. You will be left with a rough chop.

Add the butter, condensed milk and chocolate pieces to a heavy bottomed pan. Stir over medium heat till the chocolate has melted and everything in the pan has combined to form a rich, luscious mix.

Add the hazelnuts and stir through to incorporate well. You will notice the mix starting to thicken.

Quickly pour into the foil lined tray. Leave it on the countertop to cool down a little. Once it comes to room temperature, pop the tray into the fridge and leave it to set for 4-6 hours or overnight.

Carefully peel back the foil. Cut the fudge into squares and serve.

If you’re not serving this up immediately, place in an airtight container and refrigerate till needed.

Enjoy!!!

Eggless Nankatais

Its December folks! Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a bit Christmas crazy. I love everything about the Holiday season. I’m going to kick off this years Christmas recipe posts with a lovely little cookie – the Indian Nankatai. This is an eggless recipe and is so easy to put together. What you end up with is a delicate and really delicious little treat. I like making a big batch of Nankatais closer to Christmas. I add these on my Christmas platter of sweets to share with family and friends and I also have some in the cookie jar to serve up with some tea.

Let’s talk about the dough for a bit. It is such a ridiculously simple recipe, you will be surprised at how tasty the nankatais turn out. I find that this dough can be a little finicky and it usually works beautifully on a slightly warm day. While that works beautifully for us in Australia and anyone in the Southern Hemisphere, it could be a challenge in the Northern Hemisphere, where its the middle of winter. If its cold where you are, you might find that the dough ends up a little crumbly and you may have a little difficulty shaping it into a cookie. When that happens, I pop the dough in an ovensafe bowl and pop it into a slightly warm oven (about 100 degrees) for a couple of minutes. This helps the ghee warm up and helps bind the dough.

Nankatais
Yields: 1/2 kilo (approx 30 cookies)

1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)
1 cup sugar (superfine. You can also powder larger grain sugar and then use it in the recipe)
2/3 cup of ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat your oven to 180 deg. Celsius and line a baking tray with some baking / parchment paper.

Mix the ghee and sugar till it is light and creamy. Scrape down the edges and bottom of the mixing bowl halfway through the process.

Add the rest of the ingredients (baking soda, all purpose flour and chickpea flour) to the mixing bowl and continue mixing till it forms a dough.

Shape into little cookies by rolling portions of the dough into a little ball and flatten it slightly. Place the cookies on the lined baking tray.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or till done. Your looking for a light colour on the edges.

Take it out of the oven and leave the cookies to cool on the tray itself.

When completely cool, store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

You can watch the video recipe here –