Christmas Fruit Cake with Ricotta and Cydonia-Japanese Quince

I have learned to like fruit cakes and I always bake them for Christmas for us, and as presents. Over the years I have developed different recipes, fit for different dietary needs and tastes. But nearly all my Christmas cakes differ from traditional ones in several features. First of all they are all gluten free, some are grain, dairy and sugar free. I do not like spicy cakes, I do not use large quantities of spirits or other alcohol to soak dried fruits or add them to already baked cakes. Thus, my favourite colour of fruit cake flesh is light yellow. The best taste for me is of a rich and deep tea cake with vanilla flavour, married with all individual taste of dry fruits, not overshadowed or even completely killed by intense spice mixes of traditional Christmas cakes. I also like at least half of my fruits of sour or sweet and sour taste. That’s how cranberries, sour cherries and sweet and sour sultanas find a way into dried fruit mixes. Last year I incorporated cydonia – Japanese quince – Latin name Chaenomeles japonica, dried fruit that is very popular in Latvia and parcels of which I get every festive season from our friend.

Fresh cydonia fruits look like a small , not very pretty apples, they are very sour and hard. But their taste as dried fruits will beat any other variety by the depth of flavour and their exquisite sweet and sour taste. They are usually packed with cranberries, small European variety, that are dried naturally without sweeteners.

The cake, packed with dried fruit mix, with added walnuts, is based on a rich dough where part of butter is replaced with soft cheeses: formed ricotta cheese or cottage cheese. Both cheeses give practically identical results in texture and taste. The cake texture is dense, but soft, not overly moist. It only gets better with storage, 2-3 weeks are the time frame for cake consumption. I also want to mention one approach that I use now consistently in all my cakes that contain dried fruits. I reserve part of the thick batter without added fruits and nuts and apply it in thin layer in a baking tin. Some portion is also used on top of the cake. This approach allows to protect dried fruits, especially sultanas, raisins or apricots from exposure to high temperatures and burning as the result of it. It makes cake crust to look neat and pretty.

Each slice of the cake looks different, depending on the mix of dried fruits and walnuts in it.

Ingredients:

dry ingredients

  • 100g coarse rice flour (I used McKenzie’s)
  • 150g almond flour
  • 120-150g sugar (I use 120g)
  • 10g vanilla sugar
  • 8g baking powder
  • 1 extra tea spoon of rice flour or any other gluten free flour mix for dried fruit mix

wet ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g soft, but not melted unsalted butter
  • 100g full fat ricotta cheese (I used homemade cottage cheese)
  • 20g full fat sour cream
  • 30g cooked lemon puree (can be replaced by 20ml of lemon juice)
  • 2 dessert spoons of French brandy calvados to soak dried fruits
  • 1 tea spoon of vanilla extract for the batter
  • 1 tea spoon of vanilla extract in alcohol and water without sugar for already baked cake
  • extra butter to grease baking tin

dried fruits, citrus peel and nuts

  • total weight 770g, the weight of individual ingredients can vary, you can use less dried fruit and nut mixture
  • 200g sultanas (100g yellow sour variety and 100g green sultanas)
  • 150g dried apricots
  • 150g cydonia and cranberry mix
  • 100g homemade orange peel (commercial mix citrus peel variety can be used instead)
  • 120g walnuts
  • 50g dried figs and sour cherries mix
  • zest of 1 lemon (I used 2 tea spoons of frozen lemon zest from homegrown lemons)

Preparation:

in advance

  • if using homemade lemon or orange peel, it can be prepared 1-2 month before making the cake
  • divide all dried fruits in two separate portions – soft and juicy ones that do not need soaking, and really dry ones
  • place the second portion into a glass bowl, add alcohol and the same quantity of warm water, cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave on benchtop for 48-72 hour, or up to a week refrigerated
  • roast walnuts on a dry pan on low heat for 7-10 minutes, shake the pan to turn walnuts from side to side

baking cake

  • generously grease large circle shape tin with unsalted butter, make sure no surface is left dry
  • refrigerate the tin, it will be easier to see any spots left ungreased
  • take soaked dried fruits from the bowl, if they have any residual moisture, dry them on paper towel
  • mix both portions of dried fruits with nuts and orange peel, cut to size, add one tea spoon of rice flour
  • cover the bowl with another, smaller size bowl and shake to cover all surfaces with rice flour
  • mix all dry ingredients in a separate bowl, put the mixture through a sieve if necessary
  • use extra large size and wide bowl to mix another portion of ingredients, as the final batter will be prepared in this bowl
  • mix ricotta cheese, sour cream, lemon puree/juice and vanilla extract into a fine paste
  • add soft butter and mix it in, for a successful mix ricotta cheese and sour cream have to be room temperature
  • beat/whisk eggs with sugar until triple in volume and pale in colour
  • add 3-4 table spoons of beaten egg mixture to ricotta and butter paste
  • mix with a whisk
  • add all the rest of egg and sugar mixture, mix to it in with a whisk to homogeneous texture
  • add dry ingredients to wet ingredients
  • mix them with spatula, the batter will have thick texture, let the batter rest for 3-5 minutes
  • put aside 2-3 serving spoons of batter
  • get baking tin from the fridge
  • working with small and soft spatula spread cake batter in a thin layer in a tin, going up to 1/2 of the tin height
  • add the mixture of dried fruits, peel and nuts to the main portion of the batter
  • carefully mix everything together, the final mixture will be very thick and will resemble dried fruits lightly smeared with batter, than proper batter with filling, that’s how it suppose to be
  • spoon the mixture into the tin, press it down to avoid cavities in the cake
  • use portion set aside to cover the top of the batter, all pieces of dried fruits should be hidden
  • careful placement of the cake batter into the tin is half a success in getting nice and neat cake slices
  • heat fan forced oven to 170C
  • place the pan into a middle shelf and bake for 20 minutes
  • lower the temperature to 150C with fan, bake for another 45-60 minutes, time will depend on your oven
  • fully baked cake will be dense and hard to the touch and will be slightly separated from the sides of the cake tin
  • get the cake out of the oven and rest it at least 10 minutes in a tin
  • make sure the cake moves freely in a tin
  • turn the cake over to a wire rack, lined with baking paper
  • return the cake to rest into a switched, but still warm oven
  • leave the cake in the oven overnight
  • the next day transfer the cake into a container, leave baking paper, it will make it easier to transfer the cake later if necessary
  • use vanilla extract based on alcohol and water on the cake, just use drops of this extract on top of cake crust, it will not leave any traces
  • dust the cake with icing sugar as a final decoration step
  • let the cake rest at least 3 days before cutting, it will be even better after 5-7 days
  • we cut our cake (as shown in photos) on the 3rd day, tasted on 5th

I kept the cake in a tin where I put pieces of used vanilla bean. They gave the cake additional vanilla flavour, that penetrated cake flesh with storage.

With some rationing the cake lasted well into New year.

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3 thoughts on “Christmas Fruit Cake with Ricotta and Cydonia-Japanese Quince

    1. I’ll be glad to learn your opinion about the cake. I am not a big fan of fruit cakes, but really liked this one, though it tasted better after 5-7 days of storage.

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