Christmas Fruitcake!

A tradition that I’ve started in the past couple of years has been to make and gift fruitcakes to my family. It’s taken me a few years, but I think I’ve finally found a recipe that I like.

It’s nut-less, more cakey than fruity, and because I rinse all the glace fruit and soak my raisins before adding them in, it’s not nearly as sweet as it would have been otherwise (although, there are still those who find it too sweet). Also, rather than using brandy to soak the cakes, I prefer amaretto. It just gives a little bit extra without the crazy-strong alcohol fumes that I get from my mom’s preferred recipe for dark fruitcake.

Because I use mine for gifts, I make them in smaller containers, and at a multiple of the recipe below. This year I made 1.5x the recipe, twice, so I could have just done 3x, but space and lack of bowls made it impractical. My 1.5x yielded 8 cakes @ 400 grams (the gifts – approximately 6″ tube cakes) + 1 extra cake @ 450 grams (for me… you know… to sample).

photo (2)


  • 900 grams (total) raisins, craisins, glace fruit, candied citron in a combination that you like
  • 600 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 345 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 380 grams granulated sugar
  • 4 medium eggs. room temperature
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 250 mL milk (I used skim milk)

To make the fruitcakes:

  • If using raisins or craisins, rehydrate them by soaking in water overnight. Alternatively, what I did was to put mine into a saucepan, cover with water, and set on the stove until the water came to a boil; I then turned off the stove and let the water cool before continuing.
  • Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease & flour the pans, place on baking sheets and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the rehydrated raisins and candied fruits (I rinsed and drained my rehydrated and glace fruits in hot water to get rid of some of the syrup first, otherwise for me, it would have been waaaayyyy too sweet). Add about 1 cup of the 600 grams of flour and stir so that all the fruits are coated with flour.
  • Whisk the baking powder and salt into the rest of the flour and set the dry ingredients aside. Add the almond extract to the milk, and set that aside as well.
  • Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until it’s a very pale, almost white color.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl between each egg.
  • Alternate adding the flour mixture with the milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients (Flour-milk-flour-milk-flour).
  • When the flour is completely incorporated, remove the batter from the stand mixer and add it to the bowl containing the flour-coated fruits and mix by hand with a wooden spoon or strong spatula until the fruit and batter are evenly distributed.
  • Divide the batter among the pans and bake them for about 30 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

At this point, while the cakes were still warm, I brushed them generously with a mixture of Amaretto and orange juice. The drenching liquid will soak in really well while the cakes are warm, and help to keep them moist. After they have cooled, cover lightly with plastic wrap; every few days, brush with more Amaretto. After the first soak, I used straight Amaretto, and if the oven happened to be on, I would pop them back in to warm up before brushing, but if the oven wasn’t on, no big deal. The cakes are actually ready to eat right when they come out of the oven, and the extra step(s) of drenching aren’t strictly necessary (to me), but because I needed to hold these for a couple of weeks, I think they age better with a bit of booze  ;-)


TWD/BWJ – Finnish Pulla

I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I’ve lost track of what week we’re on – I know there were a few recipes that I misssed somewhere along the way that I’ll most likely make up somewhere down the road, but at the moment, I have no idea how many of those there are.

At any rate, I’m glad I did this week’s recipe – it was so good!

IMG_0574     IMG_0575

I actually only made half the recipe, because I wasn’t too sure about how it would turn out, and with production of Christmas baking in full swing at my house, I didn’t want something that was just ‘ok’ floating around. Considering that it disappeared within about a day-and-a-half, this one’s going to be a keeper, I think. Although it was definitely better fresh from the oven when it was still warm and soft and fragrant and steaming, it was still good toasted with a bit of butter and jam the next morning.


My mods this time were minimal: I added a bit of cinnamon to the cardamom because I only had ground (of uncertain vintage) instead of fresh. Aesthetically, I did a 4-strand braid instead of 3, and skipped the bowtie.

To try the recipe, check out Erin’s blog at …thanks for hosting, Erin!

TWD/BWJ – Week??: Gingerbread Baby Cakes

So, depending on how you look at it, I’m a bit late making this recipe… Technically, I’ve still got almost 2-1/2 hours before Tuesday is over, and being the procrastinator that I am, anything more than 20 minutes before it’s due can be considered early. Really, though, I’ve had almost 3 weeks to even look at the recipe, never mind make it; when did I actually pull out my book and take a look? A couple of hours ago (maybe?).

I had a bit of molasses left over from my gingerbread cookies last week, so this was a timely recipe for me. I didn’t want to make the full recipe, since I’m the only ginger fan home at the moment, so I opted for a 1/2 batch instead, baked in some Christmas tree pans that I’ve had kicking around for a while. They’re slightly smaller than the recommended size, so I got 6 cakes at about 100 grams each; perfect for sharing (or not).

They don’t have as much of a gingery bite as some other recipes I’ve made; they’re still good, but if I make them again, I’d use more ginger for sure. The fresh ground pepper was an interesting addition, although I don’t really taste much of it. They did smell really good in the oven, though!


Just right for a bedtime snack!


Thanks to this week’s host, Karen of Karen’s Kitchen Stories… Check out her blog for the recipe!

Slacker! Steamed Chocolate Cake

So, I’ve obviously started slacking as my posting has become more and more sporadic. I do still check to see what the month’s assignments are from the various blog groups that I try to participate in; sometimes I even manage to make the recipe… but then that’s as far as I get – the post doesn’t quite make it past the kitchen and into the blog.

This is one such example… The assignment for this last month’s Aspiring Baker’s challenge was to make a steamed cake. A few months ago, I made a steamed Ma Lai Goh that didn’t quite fit the requirements for that month’s challenge. Instead of re-making the same cake, I found a recipe for a steamed chocolate cake and made that instead. And am I ever glad I tried it!

I think this is my new favorite chocolate cake recipe! I tried to convince my sister how much better this one is than her current favorite, but apparently the jury is out, pending resubmission of the said item – fully frosted and decorated. It may be a bit of a wait, since I personally like it plain  :-)


I found the recipe at Cakelets and Doilies but as usual, I modified it slightly to reduce the amount of sugar, and I also added some crushed instant coffee granules.  I’m sure it would taste fine without any mods, too. I steamed it in a 6″ ring instead of an 8″, and covered it with plastic wrap instead of aluminum foil. Partway through, I released the plastic wrap so that the cake could continue to rise, resulting in a super-tall, super-moist, super-soft cake. It stayed moist – even uncovered, unfrosted, and just left in the microwave – for the better part of 3 days. It can all be mixed by hand, too, so no fewer bowls and implements to clean… bonus!

Lychee, Osmanthus & Goji Jelly

I was invited to dinner with some of my former co-workers, and one of the girls LOVES jello, so this was a no-brainer, especially since I’d been meaning to try making it with some of my Dad’s goji berries from the backyard. I did a bit of Googling for a recipe, but in the end, I just improvised. The result was not too sweet, but still lychee-tasting, which is exactly what I wanted.


– 1/2 can of lychees, cut into smallish pieces (I ate the rest of the lychees as a snack)

– lychee juice from the can + water (or more juice if you prefer it sweeter) to total 4 cups liquid

– 3 tablespoons gelatin (I used bulk, but it’s about 3 packages of Knox)

– 2 tablespoons of sugar

– 2 tablespoons of osmanthus flowers (mine came in a jar with syrup)

– 1.5 tablespoons dried goji berries


1) Heat  up the lychee juice (stovetop or microwave) and toss in the goji’s to rehydrate. The hotter the juice, the more quickly they rehydrate; mine took about 30 mins.

2) Mix the sugar and gelatin together, then sprinkle on the remaining liquid to allow the gelatin to bloom in a large, microwaveable container (I used an 8-cup pyrex measuring cup). When the goji’s are almost ready, microwave the liquid and stir, ensuring that the gelatin and sugar are melted.

3) Pour the gelatin liquid into the container you want to make your jelly in; add the goji’s and lychee juice; stir in the osmanthus flowers. If your mixture is still quite warm, let it come to room temperature before putting it into the fridge; otherwise, put it in the fridge as you would normal jello and wait for it to set.

To suspend the gojis, lychees and osmanthus in the jelly rather than have it sit in a layer on the bottom of your jelly, give it a stir when the jelly is partially set. When you stick your spoon or spatula in, the jelly should still be soft and give easily – when you take the spoon/spatula out, the jelly will resettle in the container and smooth itself out. If you wait too long and it has begun to set firm, the jelly will break when you try to stir it and it won’t resettle into a smooth surface.

I found my ratio of 3T gelatin to 4 cups liquid to be the consistency that I like: firmer than regular jello and able to keep its shape after being cut into squares, but not as firm as finger-jello.

This post is being submitted to Aspiring Bakers #24 (October 2012) : Jellies & Puddings hosted by Charmaine of MiMi Bakery House. Thanks, Charmaine!

Mid-Autumn Festival & Turkey Day

A bit late to post for either celebration, but I have pictures!

This year’s Mid-Autumn Festival fell on September 30th. Traditionally, families get together for dinner, to eat moon cakes, and to observe the beauty of the harvest moon. I have vague memories from Chinese school of learning about the legend of the rabbit and the moon, but after 25 years, trust me – they’re very vague memories. If you’re really curious, I’m sure you can Google it…

Last year, my dad found a moon cake press, and bought it for me from a farmer’s market. At first, I wasn’t sure what it was, and just thought it was a regular cookie press. Once I realized, I got the idea stuck in my head to make my own moon cakes. I found a recipe in one of my mom’s old cookbooks that she had picked up on a trip to Vancouver in the early ’80’s and set to experimenting. My guinea pigs gobbled up last year’s production run of about 20 minis, so this year, production was increased to three batches (totalling 60 cakes) and two types: red bean and lotus paste – both with salted egg yolk, of course.

So far, I’ve given away about 75% of what I made, and I suspect that next year will see another increase in production as well as possibly expansion to a third type of moon cake. Even though it’s pretty time consuming to handmake the moon cakes, to me, it’s more meaningful to gift homemade moon cakes rather than commercially made ones. My guinea pigs only get a couple each, but I think they appreciate them.


As for today, here in Canada, it’s Thanksgiving – or, more colloquially known amongst my little group: Turkey Day!

I was saved from turkey duty by my friend’s hubby – he cooked an amazing bird for our “Travel Orphan’s Dinner”. What are travel orphans? Those of us whose parents are travelling and not home for Thanksgiving. I’m sure they’re enjoying themselves overseas, but, man – did they ever miss out on a feast!

I forgot to take a picture of our huge buffet that included an appy platter, a turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, carrots, peas, cranberry sauce, roasted veggies from my dad’s garden, broccoli salad, pickled beets (also from our backyard), sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and yorkshire pudding. YUM!! …And, that was before our equally giant dessert spread: two pumpkin pies, a pumpkin-apple pie, an apple pie, a lemon cheesecake, cookies, and my little contribution of mini’s: profiteroles, pumpkin cupcakes with spiced creamcheese frosting, moon cakes, and pumpkin-spice marshmallows.


I wish I had taken more pictures, but maybe next year… Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

TWD/BWJ – Week 17: Whole Wheat Bread

I love the sound of freshly baked bread… It always freaks me out a bit at first, until I remember what it is.

You might think I’m crazy, but really, the crust on a loaf of bread that’s fresh out of the oven makes a quiet crackly sound as it starts to cool, kind of like a campfire. It only lasts for the first 15-20 minutes, so you have to pay attention, or else you’ll miss it. Then you’ll have to bake another batch of bread to try and listen for it again! (Not that it would be a BAD thing….)

It’s still almost summery here, so it was a toss-up whether or not I would bake this afternoon, or wait until it was a bit cooler in the evening. Since I had to make cupcakes for a birthday, I decided to bake everything in the afternoon so that my sister could help me decorate her hubby’s cupcakes when she came for dinner later.

My only big mod this time wasn’t really done on purpose: my dough only needed 6 cups of flour for all the water, so that was all I put in. I also brushed the tops with some leftover egg wash I had from this morning’s croissants, but for real, that was it…

The loaves rose an amazing amount – they looked and smelled (and sounded) great! I cut a couple of thick slices and ate them with butter and cold cuts – yum! The crust was chewy, but the crumb was so soft… Next time I might use this recipe to make some crusty rolls for dinner; if I spritz the tops with water, it should make the rolls crispy instead of chewy.


Thank you to this week’s hosts: Michele of Veggie Num Nums and Teresa of The Family That Bakes Together!

TWD/BWJ – Week 16: Apple Chiffon Upside-Down Cake

Not much to look at, but it was definitely yummy, with a few mods, as usual…

  • Rather than nectarines, because I can never find freestone ones, I used apples from the backyard instead. I only made 1/2 the recipe for a 6-inch cake, so two apples were more than enough.
  • I also cut the sugar – a LOT, and still found it quite sweet: rather than 1/2 cup, I used less than 1/3 cup for the caramel on the bottom.
  • I skipped the streusal layer in the middle because I just wanted the chiffon cake to be nice and soft and light, without the extra crunchiness in the middle.
  • While I whipped up the egg whites in my stand mixer, I mixed the yolks by hand with a whisk. I also added a bit of cream of tartar to my whites to help the meringue because when I was separating the eggs, I broke one of the yolks (oops!).
  • To incorporate my whites and yolks, I added some whites to the yolks to lighten the yolk mixture, but instead of putting the lightened yolks into the rest of the whites, I added the rest of my whites to the yolks and used the whisk to fold everything together in a wide bowl. For me, this works better to preserve the volume: when I fold the yolks in with a spatula in the stand mixer bowl, I tend to deflate my egg whites.
  • Even in a 6-inch ring, it took an hour to bake, and I had to cover the top to prevent it from burning. It still had a thicker caramelized top (that became the bottom), which I liked, but if it had been left uncovered, it definitely would have darkened too much.
  • Next time, I would probably use a slightly larger ring, or slightly less batter because my cake overflowed a bit.
  • I would also use parchment instead of foil to cover it, because the middle got stuck a bit, which I think contributed to some of the deflation. Overall, it wasn’t too bad, but it would have looked nicer otherwise.

Thanks to this week’s hosts Marlise of The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan of The Little French Bakery… Check their blogs for the recipe!

TWD/BWJ – Week 15: Popovers

Like some of the others, I’ve been finding that a lot of the recipes haven’t worked for me. I am happy to report, though, that I LOVED this one! It was only me for dinner tonight, so I only made 1/3 of the recipe, in mini muffin tins – of that 1/3, half are already gone… It’s doubtful that they’ll see dinner tomorrow.

Yesterday, I was watching Guy Fieri make yorkshire pudding at a diner in North Vancouver, and the chef there preheated her tins before adding the batter, so I greased my tins with a bit of veggie oil and popped them into the oven before turning it on to 425. Because it was so little, I made the batter by hand while I was waiting for the oven to preheat. The plan was to have my popovers with pork chops for dinner, so I added a bit of freshly ground black pepper and about a teaspoon of grated parmesan to the top of the batter before baking.

So good!

Thank you to this week’s hosts! Check out Paula’s and Amy’s blogs for the recipe! Trust me – it’s super easy, and went from cupboard to table within about 30 minutes of when I walked in the door after work.