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Your Cake Is in the Mail : Fruitcake: Better Than Its Reputation

October 25, 1990

In place of shortening or butter, suet is used in this holiday pudding. Sometimes six-pence coins for good-luck pieces were wrapped in paper and pressed into pudding just before serving. After storage, it's important to re-steam the pudding just before serving to obtain the best texture and taste.

--DONNA DEANE

STEAMED SWEET SUET PUDDING

3/4 cup finely chopped candied mixed fruit

3/4 cup finely chopped candied cherries

1 cup dried currants

3 cups seedless raisins

1 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts

1 medium tart cooking apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped

1/2 pound ground suet

2 cups flour

4 cups soft fresh bread crumbs

1 1/4 cups dark-brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon salt

6 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/4 cups brandy

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Combine candied fruit and cherries, currants, raisins, pine nuts, apple and suet in large bowl. Toss until well mixed. Stir in flour, bread crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and salt.

Beat eggs in another bowl until frothy. Stir in vanilla, 3/4 cup brandy, orange and lemon zests and juices. Pour over fruit mixture. Blend well. Cover with dampened kitchen towel and chill at least 12 hours.

Turn mixture into 4 (1-quart) English pudding basins or plain molds, filling to within 2 inches of tops. Cover each mold with strip buttered foil, turning edges down and pressing foil tightly around sides to secure. Drape dampened kitchen towel over each mold and tie in place around sides with kitchen cord. Bring 2 opposite corners of towel up to top and knot them in center of mold. Bring up remaining 2 corners and knot in similar fashion.

Place molds in large pot and pour in enough boiling water to come about 3/4 of way up sides. Bring water to boil over high heat. Cover pot tightly. Reduce heat to lowest point and steam puddings 8 hours. Replenish steamer with additional boiling water as needed.

Remove molds from water and cool to room temperature. Remove towels and foil and re-cover molds tightly with fresh foil. Refrigerate puddings at least 3 weeks before serving.

At serving, place mold in pot and pour in enough boiling water to come about 3/4 of way up sides of mold. Bring to boil over high heat, cover pot, reduce heat to low and steam 2 hours. Loosen pudding and unmold. Serve warm with rum or brandy butter or hard sauce, if desired.

To set pudding aflame before serving, warm remaining 1/2 cup brandy in small saucepan over low heat, ignite with match and pour flaming over pudding. Makes 4 puddings.

Note: Plum puddings may be kept up to 1 year in refrigerator. Traditionally, they were often made 1 year in advance.

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