Buttermilk Fruit Cake
is the perfect cake to have with your morning coffee. It is
wonderfully moist and buttery and it is loaded with aromatic spices,
dates, raisins, and currants. But take note, unlike most cakes,
this one does not use any eggs. This recipe is adapted from Jeffrey Alford
and Naomi Duguid's excellent book called Home Baking. Like all of
their books, it is full of wonderful stories, recipes, and
photographs. There are recipes from all over the world covering
pastries, breads, cakes and cookies. As they say in their
introduction; "In this book, and in these recipes, we raise the flag
of home baking because we believe that if home baking traditions
wither, then as a culture, and as home cooks, we lose a great deal." .
I say "Here Here" to that.
When I was young, my
mother baked a lot with dried fruits. Fresh fruits were quite scarce
during the winter months so a good alternative was to use dried dates,
raisins, and currants. Dates are the fruit of the palm tree, that grow
in large bunches, with each date measuring up to 2 inches (5 cm) long.
They have a high sugar content and are also a good source of protein
plus Vitamins A & B. For this recipe we are using dried pitted dates
and I like to buy the ones that are packed in 10 ounce (283 gram)
plastic tubs. You can usually find them in the produce section of your
grocery store. Because dried dates tend to be quite sticky, which
makes cutting them difficult, this recipe tells us to take some of the
flour from the recipe and use it when cutting the dates as this
prevents them from becoming soft and mushy.
Next, the raisins. This
cake contains both dark and golden raisins. Raisins, like dates, have
a high sugar content, and are a good source of vitamins and iron.
Because of their high sugar content they retain moisture which keeps
any baked good, fresher longer. Raisins, like currants, are simply
dried grapes. Both dark and golden seedless raisins come from Thompson
seedless grapes. The difference is that dark raisins are sun dried
which gives them that dark shriveled appearance. Golden raisins are
treated with sulfur dioxide first to prevent them from turning dark
and then air dried to keep them a lovely golden yellow color, plump,
and moist. Currants, on the other hand, are dried Zante grapes and are
dark, tiny, and very sweet.
This cake is very easy
to make. Only a few bowls are needed, one for the dry ingredients and
one for the wet ingredients. Then everything is mixed together and you
are done. I love eating this cake when it is warm from the oven, as it
is wonderfully moist and buttery. Well wrapped, it will keep for a
couple of days, if it lasts that long.