Christmas Semolina Fruitcake
The Fruitcake Tradition:
Fruitcakes instantly stir up happy, festive images in my mind. I remember one delicious fruitcake that I’ve always been very fond of since my childhood from an old bakery in Lahore. Finding all those dried fruits and nuts in each bite gave as much happiness as suddenly coming over a hidden treasure.
This spin on the traditional western style fruitcake is very interesting. Semolina based sweets are a huge part of South Asian and Middle Eastern dessert scene. This Suji Cake or Christmas Semolina Fruitcake is inspired by the Sri Lankan Cuisine, a local version of the western fruit cake that was brought to Sri Lanka by the Dutch and Portuguese. Like any other Christmas fruit cake/pudding it’s rich with spices, loaded with dried fruits and nuts, and moist with fruity liquid.
Baked Semolina Fruitcake:
Traditionally this Suji cake is steamed on stove top using a double boiler method but to make things easier I baked the pudding covered with foil sheet in a water bath/ bain marie. I used figs, dates, plums, raisins and sultanas in dried fruit and apples for a flavour boost instead of candied and canned fruit. But really what I wanted to shine in the recipe was the orange flavour, so not only I soaked the dried fruits in orange juice as a nonalcoholic substitute but also spread a few slices at the bottom of the pan over the layer of brown sugar (as we would in a pineapple upside down cake) so that when the cake was flipped, it had a beautiful layer of caramelised oranges on top.
Easy, Make-ahead Preparation:
I find it to be one of the easiest and most fool proof of recipes for a fruit cake as it doesn’t require long preparation, comes out perfectly delicious and can be baked even a day before you need to serve it. The cake is very moist and rich. If you prefer a drier and darker version, after flipping it, place it uncovered in a 180 degrees C hot oven for 10 more minutes. You can add candied fruit to the cake to make it more colourful. It tastes divine, served warm with vanilla custard.
3/4 cup semolina
4 slices bread, white/whole wheat/multigrain
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed ground cloves, nutmeg and cardamom
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup milk
2 apples, peeled, sliced
2 egg or 2 bananas
1 orange, peeled, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sultanas
5 dried figs
6 dried plums
1/2 cup almonds, crushed
1/2 cup walnuts, crushed
1/4 cup orange juice
This Is What You Do:
Soak raisins, sultanas, figs, dates and plums in hot water for 10 minutes or till the figs, dates and plums are tender and raisins slightly swelled up. Drain the water.
Remove stones from dates and plums. Chop up plums, dates and figs. Soak plums, dates, figs, raisins and sultanas in orange juice till you prepare the cake batter.
Preheat oven at 160 degrees C.
Add semolina, crumbled up bread slices, cinnamon, spice mix, 1/2 cup brown sugar, milk, apple slices and eggs/bananas, orange zest, grated ginger and vanilla essence in a food processor or electric blender. Mix to make a smooth batter.
Add the soaked fruits and orange juice to the batter. Add almonds and walnuts. Mix with spoon.
Generously grease a round 9 inch cake pan. Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar on bottom and sides of pan to coat the surface of pan completely.
Cut orange into very thin round slices. Spread the slices in a single layer at the bottom of the pan. Pour the batter over the slices.
Cover the pan tightly with a foil paper. Place the pan in a water bath (a deep dish filled 1 inch with hot water) .
Place the entire dish and pan in the oven. Bake for 60 minutes.
Remove from oven but leave the cake pan in the dish with water so that it can continue to cook slowly outside oven for a while till it comes down to room temperature.
Remove cake pan from water bath. Remove foil paper. Invert a plate over the cake and flip the pan.
Serve warm sprinkled with powdered sugar if desire sweeter cake or with vanilla custard.