Recipe by Sarah Phillips; Food styling and photo by Kelly Hong © 12-8-2014 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
Everyone knows the age old joke about Grandma’s inedible fruitcake; a mélange of nasty candied mystery fruit and nuts.
Well, we decided to develop a modern take on the much maligned fruitcake, and this one is truly holiday worthy and better tasting, as well as being much lighter in texture!
This super-moist cake bakes with applesauce and is flavored with tart and dried cherries (or crushed pineapple as a variation), dotted with chopped pistachios (or pecans), enveloped in traditional cream cheese icing, surrounded with white chocolate panels, and topped with bejeweled Christmas Edible Chocolate Crunch Trees.
Centerpiece worthy, it would be an absolutely picture-perfect addition to your holiday dessert table. We show you how to do this project from start to finish.
CAKE RECIPE HELP
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; spoon into dry measuring cup and level to rim
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 unsweetened applesauce; I prefer Mott's brand
3/4 cup tart cherries and 1/4 cup cherry juice from 1 (14.5-ounce) can sour cherries or 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained; contains 3/4 cup crushed pineapple and 1/4 cup juice
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons orange peel or 1/4 teaspoon orange flavored oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped unsalted pistachios or pecans; chop and then measure
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries; chop and then measure
Traditional Cream Cheese Frosting:
18 ounces cream cheese (2 blocks plus 1/4 block), softened; I prefer Philadelphia Brand
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon salt
9 cups powdered sugar, sifted; sift after measuring
12 ounces of good quality white chocolate or chocolate chips
3 or more Edible Chocolate Crunch Trees
NOTES: Prepare the cherries for the cake. (If using crushed pineapple, no need to drain and pulse in a food processor.)
1. Drain the juice from the canned cherries.
2. Put the cherries in a food processor and pulse 2-3 times, just to break them up a little.
Measure out 3/4 cup of chopped cherries.
3. Pour off all but 1/4 cup of the cherry liquid then add the juice to the chopped cherries.
STEP I: MAKE AND BAKE THE CAKE LAYERS
1. Position one oven shelf in the lower and one in the upper-third positions in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Spray three 9- x 2-inch cake pans with cooking oil spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper and spray paper. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the applesauce, chopped tart cherries, eggs, sugar, oil, orange peel and vanilla extract.
Beat for 1 minute using paddle attachment and beat these ingredients on medium until frothy.
6. Turn the mixer on low, and add dry ingredients in a steady stream at side of bowl. Immediately stop mixing when last ingredients have been added.
Do NOT overmix, otherwise the cake will be rubbery.
7. Unclamp bowl, and fold nuts and dried cherries into the cake batter. until a few wisps of flour remain. Do not overmix.
8. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared pans.
9. Place two cake layers on the lower oven rack and center the third on the upper oven rack.
Bake the cakes for 23 to 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs, but not batter. Do not overbake.
10. Cool in pans on a wire cake rack for 10 minutes and then unmold cakes. Remove the parchment paper.
The unfrosted baked layers can be refrigerated for a day or two. It is because cakes baked with fruit tend to get sticky and/or moldy when stored at room temperature, so refrigeration is recommended.
Unfrosted cake layers can be frozen for a month or more. Thaw in the refrigerator in its wrappers.
STEP II: MAKE THE TRADITIONAL CREAM CHEESE FROSTING.
Fill and frost cake layers with the Traditional Cream Cheese Frosting.
TRADITIONAL CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Makes about 6 1/2 cups of icing; enough to fill and frost three, 9 x 2-inch layers
Never overbeat cream cheese frosting after it has been made otherwise it will become too soft and slimy. If it does, do not add in more powdered sugar, but instead add in chunks of cold cream cheese and the frosting will correct itself.
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter to soften.
Scrape down the bowl, making sure to reach the bottom of the bowl.
2. Add the vanilla extract and salt.
3. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Scrape the sides of the bowl and beat the frosting for 20 seconds longer, just to make sure all the powdered sugar is incorporated.
Correct with milk or powdered sugar if it is too stiff or soft. Sometimes you may have to add in more cold cream cheese if the mixture becomes slimy and won't correct.
Store the cream cheese frosting in the refrigerator where it will keep for a few days. Cream cheese frosting does not freeze well.
STEP III: FILL AND CRUMB COAT THE CAKE
1. Place the waxed paper strips on the platter, first, and then place the cake layer, bottom up, centered on top.
SARAH SAYS: I like to put strips of waxed paper around the cake, to keep the cake plate clean, before I fill and frost the cake.
2. Add a generous amount of frosting, about 1 cup, on the layer and spread it evenly with an offset spatula.
3. Place second layer on top, bottom side up. Add a generous amount of frosting, about 1 cup, on the layer and spread it evenly with an offset spatula.
Neaten up the sides of the cake, spreading the excess frosting evenly on the sides of the cake.
4. Place the third layer on top, bottom side down this time.
5. Smooth any frosting that has gone over the edge without adding any more to the sides of the cake.
Then frost the top and sides of the cake with additional frosting by adding a small amount; you just want a thin coating of icing on the cake.
6. Place the crumb coated cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, so the icing can set up.
7. Cover the bowl with the remaining icing with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator as well.
STEP III: MAKE THE CHOCOLATE STRIPS
You will make 3 large chocolate strips.
1. Cut a piece of parchment paper 16-inches long.
2. Make three strips of parchment measuring 5- x 16-inches
Standard parchment sheets are 15-inches across, so make three strips that are 5-inches across.
2. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, over simmering water.
3. Put one parchment strip on your work surface. Have the long side face you. Place about 1/4 cup of the melted white chocolate on the strip.
4. Immediately spread the chocolate, using a large offset spatula, making sure to completely cover the sides and bottom of the strip. Leave about 1-inch of the top of the strip uncovered.
5. Quickly make a wavy pattern in the chocolate on the top edge, by moving the spatula up and down on the surface of the chocolate, leaving pleasant soft curves in the chocolate.
6. Pick up the strip, by grabbing the two top corners, and place it on the back of a metal half sheet pan.
Repeat with the second strip.
When the third strip is done, you will need to use the back of another sheet pan, as each half sheet pan only has room for two strips.
7. When all three chocolate strips are done, place the sheet pans in the refrigerator until you need them to finish the cake.
STEP IV: FINISH ICING THE CAKE AND APPLY CHOCOLATE PANELS.
Finish icing the cake:
1. Remove the crumb coated cake and the bowl of Traditional Cream Cheese Frosting from the refrigerator.
2. Remove the strips of waxed paper from under the edges of the cake.
Give the frosting in the bowl a few folds with a rubber spatula; do not stir it.
3. Spread a generous amount of frosting on top and sides of the cake.
4. Swirl the icing on top of the cake with the offset spatula, to give it some texture. Do not try to make it smooth because we want it to look like a snowy winter landscape.
Clean up the edges of your cake plate with a damp paper towel. Do not let the frosting set; you need it to remain sticky to be able to apply the white chocolate panels, next.
Apply the white chocolate panels; you will need 21:
1. Remove one white chocolate coated strips from the refrigerator.
Carefully release the strip from the paper, by peeling the parchment paper from the back of the chocolate taking care not to crack the chocolate.
2. Place the chocolate, on the parchment paper, with the smooth edge and long side facing you.
Briefly heat the edge of a knife or a bench scraper and cut the strip into pieces in slightly varying widths of between 1 1/2-inch to 2-inches along the length of the white chocolate. Do not trim the swirled edge at the top of the pieces.
3. Hold a panel up to the side of your cake, with the smooth end of the chocolate at the bottom, to see how much you will need to trim it.
With a warm knife edge, trim off enough of the smooth end of the panel so that it is only 1/2-inch taller than the cake. A slight variation in the height of each panel is fine.
4. Gently press the panel into the buttercream on the side of the cake, with the smooth edge of the chocolate at the bottom and the swirled edge at the top.
5. Continue in this manner, overlapping the panels by a little over 1/4-inch.
6. Then place three Edible Chocolate Crunch Trees on the finished cake.
If desired, sprinkle a small amount of the sparkling sugar on the top of the cake to make it look extra frosty.
Serve by slicing into pieces and serve immediately. Frosted cake can remain at the cool side of room temperature for 2 hours maximum because of the perishable cream cheese frosting.
Since the cake is frosted with Cream Cheese Icing is perishable, the cake must be refrigerated - just remove the Edible Chocolate Crunch Trees. It will keep for a few days.
The cake can be frozen for a month or more - just remove the Edible Chocolate Crunch Trees beforehand.