The months after the holidays, after a plethora of cookies and gingerbread and the celebrations of the New Year, I can't help feeling the need to revoke some of the festive spirit. Have you noticed how the cold also brings about a stillness in the air? It's as though the air is pregnant with possibilities.
I love winters for this reason and also because I simply love crisp cold days more than hot, sweaty, days - and it makes me want to cook hearty stews and bake warm breads and roast meats. It also reminds of our early years when we had just arrived in the US. Every holiday season, our dear friend Michael's mother, who lives in Australia would mail us a traditional boiled Christmas pudding (with instructions for the flambe and brandy butter)
One of these holidays, I am determined to make us a traditional pudding (suet and all) but for now, I'll make do with a similar albeit simpler, delicious cherry raisin cake.
My first experience making this cake, resulted in what I'd like to simply call - 'the incident'. An unforgettable one nevertheless, since my forgetting to use parchment paper during the baking process resulted in a beautiful brown, perfect cake, tearing apart as I tried to nudge it out of the loaf pan. Not pretty - and pretty much heartbreaking!
Any how, now that I have recovered, I simply must share this lovely recipe with you. I have sent a loaf of this delightful creation to my good friend Shearer and she assures that me that it was a roaring success not just with the grown-ups but also the kids. As far as I'm concerned if the kids love it, its got to be good stuff!
This recipe is adapted from the original as published in the Australian Women's Weekly Cookbook.
The cherries we need are not the canned, fresh or frozen variety nor are they the maraschino cherries but rather the red glazed ones - the ones I finally found them in a 4 oz container simply labeled red cherries though I know them as glazed cherries (not cheap at $4.50 for 4 oz).
Secondly the raisins should be sultanas or 'golden raisins ' and not the 'Thompson' raisins.
Most importantly, set aside 3 hours for the preparation and baking of this cake and bake 3-4 days before serving for flavors to mature beautifully.
Preheat the oven to 300 deg F
Place softened butter in a bowl & add the powdered sugar.
Cream with a hand held electric blender till light and fluffy (I am sure you can also use your esteemed kitchen aid mixer if you've got it!)
I used my handy Braun handled that's been with me forever and I love it!
Onto the next step -
Add beaten eggs and blend well. Freshly squeeze the oranges (my 7 year old son was so excited to do this for me :) and add the juice to the egg mixture.
Once the orange juice is added and blended together with the electric hand blender, it looks as though the butter and juice is congealed. No worries!
Put the flour into a separate large mixing bowl and add baking powder to it. Stir with clean hands or rubber spatula. Take away 2.5 oz of the flour into a small bowl and set aside.
Halve the cherries. Mix together the glazed cherries and the golden raisins in a bowl. Add the 2.5 oz reserved flour and mix together till all the cherries and raisins are thoroughly coated with the flour.
Cook's Note - Isn't it the darnedest thing, that coating with flour prevents them from settling to the bottom when added to the batter!
Add the egg mixture to the flour. With a rubber spatula, fold the flour and egg mixture together, scraping the sides of the bowl and turning the batter over and over till completely blended.
Add the cherries and raisins and mix with the rubber spatula till completely blended. Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment paper. Important!
To line the pan, I cut 2 large rectangles of parchment paper - one the width of the length & the other the width of the other side. Place both the rectangles into the pan & they will overlap with the excess paper hanging off the sides. This is fine because it allows easy removal of the cake (use like handles)
Cook's Note - I learned the hard way that non-stick cooking spray simply doesn't stand a chance when baking for 2 hours. So the parchment paper is a must.
Bake for 2 hours until it reaches a beautiful golden brown color. Pierce with a thin skewer and it if comes out clean then the cake is done. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely on a baking rack.
Wrap in foil and set aside for 3-4 days for the favors to mature and it is ready to serve.
I sprinkled some powdered sugar when I served the cake - the favors of the butter, orange juice and dry fruits complement each other beautifully.
I realized that though many recipes call for soaking the dry fruits in brandy (and can be substituted for the orange juice) I didn't miss it at all and actually preferred this lighter version. Also, I didn't have to worry about the kids turning their noses up!
CHERRY RAISIN CAKE
1/2 lb all-purpose flour
1/2 lb butter
1/2 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp baking powder
4 oz freshly squeezed orange juice
3/4 lb golden raisins
1/2 lb glazed cherries
Butter and sugar mixture - In a large bowl cream the softened butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Eggs - Break into a bowl and lightly beat
Oranges - Squeeze fresh oranges and reserve juice
Flour - In a large bowl place together the all purpose flour and baking powder. Reserve 2.5 oz flour separately.
Cherries and raisins - Halve the cherries. Toss in the 2.5 oz reserved flour till thoroughly coated.
Preheat the oven to 300 deg F .
Cut pieces of parchment paper & line a 9 x 5 loaf pan. To line the pan, I cut 2 large rectangles - one the width of the length & the other the width of the other side. Place both the rectangles into the pan & they will overlap with the excess paper hanging off the sides. This is fine because it allows easy removal of the cake (use like handles)
To the creamed butter and sugar, add beaten eggs and blend. Add the orange juice and blend till well mixed. To the flour, add this egg mixture. With a rubber spatula, fold the flour and egg mixture together, scraping the sides of the bowl and turning the batter over and over till completely blended.
Add the flour coated cherries and raisins and mix with the rubber spatula till completely mixed.
Bake for 2 hours in the preheated oven till the cake is a beautiful golden brown. Pierce with a thin skewer and it if comes out clean then it is ready. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely on a baking rack.
Wrap in foil and set aside for 3-4 days for the favors to mature and it is ready to serve. Cut into slices to serve.