Big Granny's Indian Christmas Plum Cake

This one is not for the faint hearted baker, the careless cook, the shortcut sous chef or the lazybones hash slinger.  For you, my friends, I give you full permission to scroll through my pretty pictures, then put on your shoes and toddle off to the nearest bakery to pick up your run-of-the-mill Christmas Plum cake. There's no shame in it.

But for those of you who are committed to making a truly special Indian Christmas Plum cake, this extraordinary plum cake with rum is sure to delight you and your family in every way.

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It's the best Christmas cake I've ever had. Dark, rich and moist, packed with dried fruits and nuts, sinfully spicy and decadently boozy, this is my grandmother's heirloom Christmas fruit cake recipe. 

Big Granny, we called her. She made this cake lovingly for over 50 years, for an ever-expanding family of 8 children and their spouses, 16 grandchildren and countless extended family and friends. And everyone in all the land proclaimed, while wondering what the secret was, that her plum cake was THE BEST. 

Christmas plum cake with candy cane heart

I imagine her writing this recipe out neatly in her pretty running hand, many, many years ago on what would have once been a fresh, white sheet of paper. Pulled out every year, that sheet of paper soon picked up smudges of cake ingredients and penciled in updates as she adjusted the recipe over the years; all the true marks of a great recipe.

This Christmas plum cake recipe was passed down to my aunts who continue to keep the tradition alive and well and then passed on to the next generation to keep the Christmas cake-making tradition going in our own families.

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Rich, dark Indian Plum cake slices packed with fruits and nuts and very little flour.

I've wrestled with whether to keep the Christmas cake recipe to within our family or to share it with the world. Big Granny was more than a tall lady, with a commanding, yet graceful presence. She had a large heart and I think she would say share it so others can learn to make it and enjoy it. She was also very modest, so I do believe she'd be a bit embarrassed if she knew her Christmas cake was being baked and savoured in kitchens all over the world! 

So, I share with you my grandmother's heirloom recipe (slightly adjusted for modern times, since I wouldn't even know where to get suet from these days!), a lasting legacy that she has left behind not just for our family, but for you and your family too;  as a labour of love to those who we care about most.


How to Make the Best Christmas Plum Cake

In a nutshell, here's the process:

Ideally, start 2 months before the day you plan to cut the cake. I usually begin cutting and soaking the fruit at the beginning of November and leave the fruits to soak for a month. I bake the cake at the beginning of December. Then, I let it sit it for about 3 weeks, where I feed it it with rum/brandy once week. After such TLC, by the time it's time to cut the cake on Christmas Day, the Christmas plum cake is well fed, moist, boozy and divinely rich. 

Here's a rough timetable and outline of the Christmas Fruit Cake Making process:

4 weeks before Baking Day  (Nov.1)

1. Cut and Soak Fruit and Nuts 

Week before Baking Day (Nov. 23)

2. Prepare Caramel /Burnt Sugar Caramel

Day before Baking Day (Nov. 30)

3. Prep  
 Keep all ingredients out, measured and ready the day before baking day.

On Baking Day (Dec. 1)

4. Beat egg white until stiff peaks form
5. Beat butter and sugar
6. Add egg yolks and semolina/ marmalade mixture
7. Add the spices
8. Add the fruit and nuts
9. Add essences and caramel
10. Add the flour mixture
11. Fold in egg whites
12. Bake

Run up to Cutting Day 

13. Let cake sit  (for at least 2-3 weeks) and feed it with brandy regularly.

Cut (Dec. 25)

14. Cut on Christmas Day!

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Slices of Christmas plum cake. Always in slices, never in wedges.


Short Cut Method to making Christmas Plum Cake

Don't fret if you haven't started this process 2 months ahead. There have been years that I've made this cake as late as a week before Christmas, allowing the cut fruits and nuts to only soak for 3 days before baking.  The results are equally good. The plum cake is still moist and rich. Just be sure to refrigerate it before slicing.

Dry Fruits for Plum Cake

Plum cake dry fruits,  Dry fruits for plum cake

- I use a limited selection of fruits and nuts (For eg:150g- Dark raisins, 150g- Gold raisins, 100g- Candied ginger peel, 75g- Candied orange peel, 150g- Cashew nuts), but you can use whatever combination of fruits and nuts you can get your hands on. Dark raisins, gold raisins, dried peaches, apricots, figs, prunes, candied cherries, candied ginger, candied orange, papaya, tutti-frutti, almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, pecans etc.

- Whatever combination of fruits and nuts you choose to use, try to use the best quality that you can get your hands on.

-Choose seedless varieties of raisins (or you will be so sorry when you have to clean out all the seeds)

- Use tutti-frutti, candied papaya and pineapple sparingly. 

- Be sure to cut all the fruit. The raisins should be cut so that they don't swell up and sink in the cake. Nuts should be cut up into little bits.

The Best Rum for Plum Cake

My favourite rum to use for soaking the fruits is the iconic vatted Indian dark rum, Old Monk. But any dark rum will do. So will any brandy. Or even a mix of rum and brandy to soak the fruits is just fine and dandy.

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My rich Christmas Plum Cake ready to be cut on Christmas day.

Recipe for Christmas Fruit Cake/ Rich Christmas Plum Cake

Plum Cake Ingredients:

Mixed dried fruits and nuts= 625g
☐(Eg: raisins, candied ginger, orange, pears, apples, cherries, almonds, cashew nuts, tutti frutti, etc.= 625g total weight)

Cake Ingredients: Total weight= 625g
☐100g- All purpose flour
☐90g- White sugar
☐40 g- Sooji/ rava/ semolina
☐195g- Unsalted butter
☐75g- Caramel (75-90g depending on how dark you want the cake)
☐3 medium eggs (125g)
☐1 teaspoon baking powder

Additional ingredients:

☐10 tablespoons rum/ brandy to soak dried fruit/nuts in
☐1 tablespoon brandy to mix with marmalade
☐125g- Marmalade
☐ Additional rum/brandy for feeding the baked cake

Spices and Essences:

☐1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
☐1/2 teaspoon almond extract
☐1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
☐1/4 teaspoon clove powder
☐1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder
☐1/4 teaspoon allspice powder
☐1 tablespoon brandy
☐125g- Marmalade


☐1 Small Round Baking Tin- 8 inch
☐Hand held Mixi

Step- by- Step Instructions:

Four weeks before Baking Day

1. Cut and Soak Fruit and Nuts 

Chop fruits and nuts. 

Lady chopping fruit and nuts for Plum Cake
Chop fruit and nuts

Pour in 10 tablespoons of rum/ brandy and soak fruits and nuts for 2 weeks. Cover with cling film. Every couple of days, mix the fruit and nut mixture.

Lady pouring rum into chopped ruits
Soak fruits and nuts in rum

Week before Baking Day

2. Prepare Caramel /Burnt Sugar Caramel

See how to make burnt caramel.

Day before Baking Day

3. Prep  

Ingredients for Kerala plum cake, traditional plum cake, fairy, Christmas ornaments, snow man, candy cane, hand held mixi
Lay out all ingredients the day before baking day.

  • Keep all ingredients out, measured and ready the day before baking day.
  • Measure and keep butter out of the fridge.
  • Keep eggs out of the fridge.
  • Mix semolina/rava in marmalade and brandy and set aside.
  • Line cake tin with parchment paper. Before baking, grease and dust the parchment lined cake tin with flour. Dust out the excess flour. This mixture gives the cake batter something to cling to as it rises up the sides of the cake pan.

Lined baking tin for plum rum cake


Baking Day: 

4. Beat egg white until stiff peaks form

Separate egg yolks and egg whites. In a clean, grease free dish, beat the egg whites with clean, grease-free beaters until still peaks form. Set aside for later.

Beat egg whites for Indian Christmas cake
Beat egg whites

5. Beat butter and sugar

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until the batter is well beaten, creamy and pale yellow in colour.

Cream butter and sugar for plum cake
Cream butter and sugar together.

6. Add Egg Yolks and Semolina/ Marmalade mixture

In batches, add an egg yolk at a time with a little of the semolina/rava- marmalade mixture, into the batter. Beat well to incorporate into the batter.

Add yolks and semolina for Kerala Christmas cake
Add egg yolks and semolina/ rava

7. Add the spices

Add the cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice spices into the batter and beat well.

Add spices to Christmas cake batter
Add spices

8. Add the Fruit and Nuts

Before adding the fruits and nuts to the batter, toss the cut fruit and nut mixture in a tablespoon of flour. This will prevent the fruit from sinking into the cake when baked.

Chopped fruit and nuts mixed with flour

Spoon the dried fruit mixture into the batter, in batches and mix well.

Add fruit and nuts to Indian Christmas cake batter
Add the fruit and nut mixture

9. Add essences and caramel

Pour the essences and caramel into the batter and beat well. Use a spatula to wipe down the side of the bowl.

Pour burnt caramel into Christmas cake batter
Add essences and burnt caramel sugar

10. Add the flour mixture

  • Sieve baking powder and flour together. 
  • Incorporate the flour mixture, a bit at a time, into the batter.

Add flour to Christmas fruit cake batter
Add flour

11. Fold egg whites

Fold about 2/3-3/4 of the beaten egg whites into the batter, a little a time. Fold until just incorporated into the batter. Do not overmix.

Fold egg whites into Christmas plum cake batter
Fold in egg whites

12. Bake

Spoon batter into a pre-greased and floured cake tin lined with parchment paper. Place in the middle rack of a 250°F per-heated oven. Bake for 3 hours 15 min- 3 hours 20 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Do not open the oven while cake is baking.

Once baked, remove from oven and let cool on a rack. Remove from baking pan only once completely cooled.


13. Let Cake Sit and Feed It (For at least 3 weeks)

  • Do not cut the cake immediately. Allow it to rest/sit, tightly covered with clingwrap in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
  • Feed it with 1 teaspoon of brandy once a week. To feed it, skewer the bottom of the cake and drizzle the brandy over the bottom of the cake. Re-wrap tightly and put in away in fridge.

14. Cut

  • For clean, easy slicing, refrigerate the cake before cutting. Cutting a cold cake prevents the cake from crumbling. 
  • Before cutting, remove the paper from the bottom and sides of the cake. Then, use a thin, serrated knife and slice with a gentle sawing motion.

15. Serve

  • This rich, Christmas plum cake tastes best at room temperature, when you can appreciate the flavours of the fruit, alcohol, essences and spices. 
  • So, while you may cut the cake when cold, allow the plum cake slices to come to room temperature before serving.

How to Cover Christmas Cake with Marzipan

 For a show stopping topping, cover your Christmas cake with a sheet of marzipan and decorate with more marzipan.


My other recipes for your Christmas table:

  1. Roast Chicken- It's No Christmas Without the Chicken 
  2. Stuffing for Roast Chicken- And There Better be Stuffing Or Somebody's Gonna Get Hurt Real Bad
  3. Salt Beef - I Say, How About Some Salt Beef Sandwiches, Ol' Chap?
  4. Coconut Yellow Rice- A Bloody Good Rice
  5. Ball Curry - Bad Word Curry!
  6. Crab Curry- A Clawsome Recipe
  7. Chicken Vindaloo- No! You Will Not Be Running to the Loo 


Christmas Desserts

  1. Coconut Macaroons (only 4 ingredients) 
  2. Marzipan- And They Said Diamonds Were A Girl's Best Friend
  3. Memsahib's Mess- My Expertise

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