- Tarun Kapoor is executive chef at Doha’s Horizon Manor Hotel. Send your feedback to:
[email protected]

With the festive season, I would like to wish all of my readers’ happiness and prosperity in their lives in the coming year. The best way to enjoy these chilly winters is to celebrate with a warm, moist and freshly baked plum cake.
There are certain dishes that have maintained their place in the old customs and traditions and are prepared every year, or the celebration will be left incomplete. Every year I prepare a dozen of cakes myself to be distributed among friends and families.
The Plum Cake is prepared in various shapes, sizes, forms, leavened or unleavened, light or dark in colour, heavy or fluffy, served with icing, frosting or simply served plain. The Plum Cake started as an English tradition that began as plum porridge or plum pudding, which was eaten a day after fasting to line the stomach of the fasting people. Gradually Plum Cake developed itself into a flour cake rather than oatmeal; also dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture, and eventually it turned into a winter pudding.
The evolution of the recipe took place in the 16th century and oatmeal was removed from the original recipe, and butter, wheat flour and eggs were added. These ingredients helped hold the mixture together to make what resulted in a boiled Plum Cake. Richer families that had ovens began making fruit cakes with marzipan, an almond sugar paste, for Easter. For winters, they made a similar cake using seasonal dried fruit and spices. The spices represented the exotic eastern spices brought by the sailors. This cake became known as Plum Cake.
Plum Cake is the most popular among all the dishes prepared during the festive season. It may sound very simple and easy to prepare but it requires preparation to be done weeks in advance. The mixture of all ingredients are mixed with spices and kept in air tight container in a warm place for the taste to develop and mature. The mixture is made with chopped candied fruits, dry fruits, nuts and spices soaked in choice of fruit juice. In western countries spirits are used to soak the fruit mixture. You can always use fruit juices to soak if you want to avoid spirits.
The cake mixing ceremony has become a hospitality industry ritual where the ingredients are mixed ceremoniously. Hotel staff and guests happily toss heaps of dry fruits, nuts and candied fruit peels to mark the start of the festive season. After baking the cakes are heavily garnished and decorated using a variety of icing like ginger cookies, candy cane, sugar balls and other such edible garnishes.

Plum Cake

Butter unsalted 150 gm
Sugar 120 gm
Egg 4 no
Flour 120 gm
Fruit mix 500 gm (recipe as mentioned below)
Baking powder ½ tsp
Icing sugar To garnish

For fruit mix
Almond 100 gm
Pistachio100 gm
Cashew nut 100 gm
Walnuts 100 gm
Black currant 100 gm
Dry red cherry 100 gm
Dry papaya 100 gm
Dates 100 gm
Raisin 100 gm
Figs 100 gm
Lemon peel 50 gm
Ginger peel 50 gm
Orange peel 50 gm
Red chili powder 1 tsp (optional)
Nutmeg powder 1 tsp
Cinnamon powder 1 tsp
Ginger powder 1 tsp
Fruit juice 1 lt

In a large, clean and dry bowl combine all the dry fruits, nuts and spices and mix well.
Pour fruit juice over it and mix again to so that the juice is absorbed.
Keep it covered in an airtight container for a week to allow the fruits to completely soak juice and become soft.
For the cake — sift flour and baking powder together and keep aside; pre-heat the oven at 180 Degree Celsius.
Cream together butter and sugar till the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add eggs one by one and continue to whisk.
Add the prepared fruit mixture and flour and gently mix using cut and fold, avoid over mixing.
Once the mixture is ready, grease a cake mould with butter and pour the prepared mixture in it.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a knife dipped in cake comes out clear.
Remove from mould and allow to cool.
 Decorate with desired garnish of ginger cookies, cadies, chocolates or simply sprinkle with icing sugar.

Note: you can keep this cake in air tight container for a week and can microwave for 10-15 seconds before serving to enjoy it more like a freshly baked cake straight from oven.