Yo, ho ho! Ah, Christmas in New York City: skating at Rockefeller Centre, carriage rides in Central Park, chestnuts roasting, Macy’s ablaze with yuletide cheer, a gentle snow wafting down on Park Avenue, egg nog by candlelight…Zoink! We’re back in WA, it’s 40 in the shade, smelling of smoke and Uncle Burt and the rellies are coming up from Bunbury. But don’t let this antipodean scenario dampen your Chrissy joie de vivre. We have just the thing in this delish recipe from New York Christmas Baking (Murdoch Books) by Lisa Nieschlag and Lars Wentrup, a fabulous holiday season culinary odyssey through the Big Apple. Sit beneath the air conditioner, sip your sparkling shiraz and work your way through this decadent chocolate fruit cake.
Makes one 23 cm cake
100 g (3½ oz) each dried apricots, dates, figs, prunes and raisins
140 g (5 oz) dried cherries
1 vanilla bean
100 ml (3½ fl oz) bourbon or rum
100 ml (3½ fl oz) hot water
160 g (5½ oz) plain flour
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
120 g (4¼ oz) each pistachios, pecans and almonds, finely chopped
100 g (3½ oz) dark chocolate
(70% cocoa), coarsely chopped
75 g (2½ oz) dried cranberries, chopped
100 g (3½ oz) butter, at room temperature
100 g (3½ oz) dark brown sugar
For the topping:
Mixed dried fruit to taste
2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp apricot jam
Butter for the tin
Coarsely chop the apricots, dates, figs and prunes and transfer the chopped fruit to a heatproof bowl together with the raisins and cherries. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the vanilla bean to the dried fruit and set the seeds aside. Warm the bourbon and add to the fruit together with the hot water. Marinate for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain the fruit, reserving the liquid. Discard the vanilla bean.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Butter a 23 cm spring-form cake tin and line with baking paper.
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in the nuts, chocolate and cranberries. Beat the butter and sugar in another bowl until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir in the vanilla seeds. Use a wooden spoon to fold in first the soaked dried fruit and then the nut, fruit and flour mixture. Transfer the batter to the prepared tin, level the top and garnish with almonds.
Bake the cake for 60–75 minutes. Cover with baking paper after about half the baking time. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Coarsely chop the extra mixed dried fruit and sprinkle on top of the cake. Heat about 200 ml (7 fl oz) of the reserved soaking liquid over low heat and stir in the sugar and jam. Drizzle the cake with the glaze before serving.
Images and Text from New York Christmas Baking by Lisa Nieschlag and Lars Wentrup. Murdoch Books RRP $35.00