Monday, August 20, 2007

Get fruity

19 Aug 2007, ST

Q Most recipes call for fruitcakes to be doused with alcohol only after baking, but I prefer to soak the fruit in cherry brandy before baking. Is this why the fruit always sinks to the bottom of the cake? How can I modify my recipe so that the fruit is evenly spaced out inside?

CHILL OUT: To get perfect fruitcake that does not have fruit sinking to the bottom, make sure the batter is not too warm by chilling all the ingredients and even the mixing bowl.-- PHOTOS:CHRIS TAN

Teng Siok Kiang

A It is traditional to soak fruit in alcohol for at least a few days before baking a cake with it. The exact kind of booze doesn't matter - the only way it could be making the fruit sink is if it's in such a large quantity that it's thinning the batter too much.

Old-fashioned fruitcake is typically based on a pound cake formula, with equal weights of flour, sugar, butter and eggs, and no extra liquid barring the booze, which should have been mostly soaked up by the fruit.

This yields a dense, creamy batter - a 'dropping consistency' is what old cookbooks call it, as it should drop neatly in thick dollops off a spoon - that will not thin out during the long baking at a medium-low temperature, keeping the fruit suspended. If it is runnier than this, cover and chill it until slightly thickened before folding in the fruit.

Your batter may be too liquid or it may be warming up too much and separating during the mixing, or your oven may be too hot. Chill all the cake batter ingredients, and preferably even your mixing bowl, beforehand: Cream the butter and sugar with a cake mixer; beat in the eggs a small spoonful at a time; fold in the flour gently; and lastly fold in the fruit even more gently.

For detailed recipes for several different kinds of fruitcake, check out, British culinary guru Delia Smith's website.

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