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Easy,quick and simple fruitcake

By: Deb

This could be the easiest fruitcake it’s possible to make. It’s that simple you almost feel your cheating. At its most basic it has only 3 ingredients but is versatile (and heavy) enough to take a few more things you may wish to throw at or in it.

I confess I stuck to the original recipe ingredients to see if I could speed up the time it takes to prepare. Not that its a difficult or a time consuming cake to make it’s just that the first step is soaking the fruit overnight in the fridge and this is hurry up after all :o)

There are numerous versions of this cake around and all seem to be popular so I used the one I thought most versatile.

At its simplest this cake could be prepared if you got unexpected visitors with the bare minimal time spent away from them. It needs virtually no preparation or nannying .

So on with the ingredient list:

600ml of chocolate flavoured milk (or coffee  or banana or caramel etc.)

2 (Australian) cups of self-raising flour

the 3 fruit cake ingredients

only 3 simple fruit cake ingredients

1kg of mixed dried fruit

Seeing as that didn’t take up much room I’ll convert:

20 fl. oz.of chocolate flavoured milk (or coffee  or banana or caramel etc.)

2  cups of self-rising flour + a rounded tablespoon to round up to an Aussie cup size

2.3 lb of mixed dried fruit

On to the method.

The original recipe tells you to mix the milk and fruit together and leave in the refrigerator overnight. The next day you sift the flour into the soaking fruit and mix well. Then you put the mixture into the tin and bake. The emphasis is on the soaking over night. The most important step.

Heh. I wanted to see if it could be made quicker than that and it can.

In a lot of the traditional fruit cake recipes I use soaking the fruit, in say tea or juice, is quite common. Again using the soak over-night method but what I’ve found is adding the fruit to the liquid and gently warming it until its just hot, then letting it sit and cool for a short while does the job just about the same.

So I thought I’d try this with the flavoured milk.

Now if you are following my instructions to replicate exactly what I did you will need to add the milk and fruit to a pan and warm gently.

Then you forget to turn down the heat and walk away for a minute while you wait for it to heat up.  You check twitter and get distracted until you hear the sound of boiling milk setting itself firmly to your stove-top ;o)

Spilt chocolate milk

Spilt chocolate milk

Did you know that bringing flavoured milk to a rapid boil encourages it to split into watery liquid and gloopy clusters of lumps? Well you do now.

So this was turning into a boiled-fruitcake kind of recipe and that isn’t what we wanted, so I guesstimated how much liquid I’d lost and added an equal quantity of normal moo juice.

An after thought was to only warm the fruit in half the milk and keep the second half chilled. Then after warming you could add the chilled milk to make the whole thing cool down quicker.

If anyone tries this please let me know how it goes.

I decided to not wait until the liquid was cold, or in fact cool and added the flour when it had lost most of its “hotness”. I think this made for more difficult mixing but I really need to build my upper body strength back up and stop sounding like a wuss :p

This does make a large volume of mixture so it does take some mixing. I greased and lined (in my own imprecise manner) a spring-form tin 22cm in diam. and 6cm deep that’s roughly 9in by 2½  in in old money.

I had previously preheated the oven to 180°C aka 350°F and popped it in there. I initially decided to bake for 45mins (didn’t go with the original recipe here as most seemed to bake in a loaf tin so the timing would be off, incidentally the reason I didn’t go loaf shaped is I felt that it has too much fruit to make slicing it awkward) and our lousy oven dictates turning round the food halfway through baking so 25 minutes in I went to turn it round and found it had over-colored, in fact almost burnt on top already so I covered with foil and turned the oven down slightly. After 45 mins it probably could of come out but I left it for an hour total because I’d reduced the heat earlier. The skewer came out clean and I took it out of the oven and let it cool in the tin.

Here she is:

quick and easy fruit cake

The finished quick and easy fruit cake

Its a very dense, fruit-rich cake. It is delicious in itself but I like spice with my fruit so I would probably

add some mixed spice next time I make it. I would also recommend using mixed fruit which has the candied peel included as this certainly added something to the cake in my opinion.

If you wanted to make this cake more special, or to have at Christmas if your usual cake runs out I’d add a bit of booze (whiskey,rum, brandy etc) Just a couple of spoonfulls and some chopped nuts, say substitute a few teaspoons of fruit with the chopped nuts. You could also mess around with the types of fruit in there.

You could make up your own flavoured milk from a powder or cocoa as long as its sweet or sweetened.

I don’t think the cake could handle full on Christmas style icing but could certainly handle something simple. I’m not sure how long the cake will keep as I only made it a couple of days ago. Because it lacks a lot of the traditional ingredients that help it’s storage life I would recommend eating it as soon as possible. It is a large cake and I will be making a half-mixture next time.

One suggestion is to cook the cake in a square tin and cut in to 4 after it has cooled, drizzle with a glaze or light icing and give away to hosts of your holiday gatherings. They will think you’ve spent hours (and a fortune) making it.

So there she is, what I consider the easiest, quickest and simplest(and possibly the most versatile) fruitcake to make

So easy it's almost a cheats fruitcake

So easy it's almost a cheats fruitcake

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Festivus Cake (Maybe)

By: Pfoinkle

SAM: Two-thirds of the pennies produced in the last 30 years have dropped out of circulation.

JOSH: You’ve been reading about this?

SAM: It’s interesting.

JOSH: No, it’s not.

The above excerpt from an episode of The West Wing is, I’m afraid, an accurate description of this blog post. I’ve done a lot of research on a tiny little unimportant topic and now I’m going to tell you about it.

And you will be well within the bounds of sanity to tell me it’s not interesting.

But that’s not going to stop me from posting.


Finished Festivus Cake

This is or isn't what a traditional Festivus Cake looks like.

It all began when someone on twitter mentioned an article she’d written on the commercialization of Festivus. As I read this article, I could only think, “hey, I wonder if there’s a Festivus cake?” (my apologies to the article’s author). It’s a good article to read if you don’t know the origins of Festivus (although that’s unlikely if you’ve come in search of Festivus Cake instruction — which I promise to eventually provide in this article).

Following the accepted first step of all contemporary research, I googled “festivus cake” and after a brief foray into silliness, I ended up at that veritable font of all knowledge, Wikipedia. Where I found this (emphasis mine):

The original holiday dinner in the O’Keefe household featured turkey or ham followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&M’s, as described in detail in O’Keefe’s The Real Festivus.

Score! This is going to be the easiest blog entry, ever!

Gleefully driving to the grocery store to pick up my Pepperidge Farm cake (it’s a frozen, pre-made cake) and a bag of M&Ms, I could only imagine that this is what it feels like to be Sandra Lee.

As I drove, I also considered that I had no clue what sort of pattern is used for the M&M decorations and I resolved to look that up when I returned home.

That’s one thought I wish I’d never had.

Back at home (with my pre-made cake and bag of candy), and armed with the name of an original source (see above wikipedia quote), I immediately zipped off to Amazon to have The Real Festivus book overnighted to me. Imagine my surprise to discover that not only is the book out of print, the price of a used copy starts at $97.95. You have got to be kidding me.

Hoping to get lucky, I resorted to a quick search of Amazon’s “Look Inside Me” — which gave me precisely zero results for “cake”. Alright, back to Google.

Round Cake with M&Ms

So-called Festivus Cake

This time I went to Google images. Where I found the cake you see to the right. If I knew where this image originated I’d give credit to the baker (that’s right, I said the “baker”), but I found this exact same image on at least five pages about Festivus and I haven’t a clue to whom this cake belongs. If you know, tell me.

The discovery of this cake is where I began to suspect a problem. Now, I’m not calling myself a Pepperidge Farm expert, but my Uncle Dave (R.I.P, Uncle Dave) worked across two states and forty-plus years for Pepperidge Farm. I have eaten my fair share of Pepperidge Farm cakes.

And not a single one of those cakes was round. Ever. Obviously, this egregious error made it clear that this picture (and the sites using it) could not inform the design of my Festivus Cake.

Back to Google. I began poring over all the pages that mention the M&M decorated Pepperidge Farm cake and I became certain of one thing: 99.9995% of them got their information from Wikipedia.

Darn you Creative Commons and your free-to-copy content, darn you to heck.

I tried to find an “official” Festivus site. I found a couple of sites that seemed “officiall-y”, but they also looked like they were created at the time the show aired (1997) and hadn’t been touched in a few years except to change relevant dates. One of those sites even had a Different Festivus Book for sale, but I had trouble pinning down how the author (Who-Must-Not-Be-Named) had come to be a Festivus “expert” and in all his writings, I found no mention of cake (meaning his book would likely be of little use to me).

With little hope, I switched to huzzah! I found a fully searchable, but only partially viewable copy of The Real Festivus. Hoping to suss out what I needed from “snippets”, I eagerly searched on “cake” and was served up this message:

“No results found in this book for cake

W-wha-? But Wikipedia said the cake was “described in detail in O’Keefe’s The Real Festivus.” What sort of evil web of cakey lies is this?

And, more importantly, why on earth would anyone lie about cake?

On a whim, I searched the book for “dessert” and was served up this snippet:

My mother always cooked it, whatever it was, along with mashed potatoes, gravy, beans, and a pecan pie for dessert


Crestfallen, I turned to my vast array of twitter followers (yes, I do feel it’s fair to use “vast” when describing my 199 followers, 25% of whom I’m fairly sure are bots of some sort) and asked if anyone had the book. Apparently not. But with my tweets, I managed to suck my fellow HurryUpCakes blogger, Deb into the black hole that is my Festivus Cake research.

The remaining HurryUpCakes blogger, Pix is reportedly “away” with “no computer”.

Deb happened to have a copy of the Seinfeld “Festivus Episode” (which is actually titled “The Strike” and in her dedication she watched the entire episode.

No mention of cake.

But Deb didn’t stop there, she went on to find this transcript of a 2009 chat with Dan O’Keefe (the Seinfeld writer whose father is the creator of Festivus). There was no mention of the Pepperidge Farm cake, but there was this juicy tidbit describing the author of the other Festivus book:

a little douchebag parasite who wrote a book on Festivus and set himself up as an expert because he interviewed me for the Times. I’m not typing his name so his book sales don’t spike, but in addition to having a clunky prose style, he was rude and annoying

Well that was certainly fun (and validated my opinion that there was nothing of value on that “official” looking site).

But it didn’t answer my questions about The Cake.

And this is the moment where I felt that I had exhausted my research options.

It is my guess that the Pepperidge Farm/M&Ms cake is more fictional than Festivus. Maybe it was originally part of the show and ended up on the editing room floor. Or maybe a Wikipedia gremlin decided to have a bit of fun. Or maybe the google book search is just missing the book pages that talk about the cake.

The only thing I know for sure is that I have a Golden 3-Layer Pepperidge Farm cake in my freezer and a pound of M&M candies on my kitchen counter.

Oh, and that the “easiest blog post ever” has turned into the most research heavy blog post ever.

And maybe, just maybe this is what it feels like to be Sandra Lee.

Because traditional or not, authentic or not, appropriate or not: I’m making the damn cake.

Festivus Cake Supplies

Pepperidge Farm Cake and M&Ms Candy

Supplies are limited to one Pepperidge Farm Cake and one bag of M&M candies. I chose the “Golden 3-Layer Cake” because it was a childhood favorite, but given the dubious nature of the cake’s origins, I suppose any Pepperidge Farm cake will do. I chose M&M Dark Chocolates primarily because I didn’t even know that there were M&M Dark Chocolates and I just grabbed the first bag I found. Please note: unless you plan to completely cover the cake in M&Ms (and possibly even then), you do NOT need the 19oz bag. The cake displayed used far less than 1/2 of the M&Ms I’d purchased. It’s like Halloween all over again.

Pepperidge Farm Cake Straight from the box

Pepperidge Farm Cake Straight from the box.

This is what a Pepperidge Farm Cake looks like straight out of the box (still frozen). It’s seated on a perfectly acceptable styrofoam “serving tray”, but if you wish to spruce things up a bit for the holidays, now is the time to transfer the cake to a more spectacular serving plate. While I suppose it’s possible to damage the frozen cake’s frosting during such a transfer, it’s unlikely. And given that the frosting will likely include some defects as a result of getting jostled around your shopping cart, any new smudges will just add to the This Is A Frozen Cake mystique.

Placing the M&Ms

Carefully placing the M&M candies on the "Festivus Cake".

Now that you’ve transferred the cake to a more suitable serving tray (if you so chose), it’s time to let the cake thaw a bit. You can try to apply the M&Ms while the cake is still frozen, but if you do, those puppies will slide right off. Better to let the cake soften slightly, so the candies can nestle in a cushion of thawed “frosting”.

As to arrangement of the M&Ms, given the complete and utter lack of reliable details found on The Internet, I hereby declare that the arrangement I have chosen (as seen above) is the Official Arrangement of M&Ms on a Festivus Cake. Ignore this Official Arrangement at your own peril.

And feel free to use the comment section below to explain to me there is no “official” anything when it comes to Festivus. Except possibly the Aluminum Pole. Or, if you’re orthodox, a clock and a bag.

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Pumpkin Shaped Cake

By: Pfoinkle

Pumpkin shaped cake with buttercream frosting and fondant accents.

Pumpkin shaped cake with buttercream frosting and fondant accents.

Pumpkin shaped cake with buttercream frosting and fondant accents.

I’m primarily a buttercream broad, but when I was designing the Dr. Horrible Party Cakes, I knew I was going to be using a lot of fondant.

I decided a pumpkin-shaped cake would be an excellent place to experiment with shaping fondant — it’s easy enough to make a lovely pumpkin cake with just buttercream frosting, but fondant is a great way to add some pumpkin leaves and curly vine details.

If I had it all to do over again, I would have rolled the fondant quite a bit thinner and I would have added some painted details to the leaves with liquid food coloring (a process I used a lot on the goggles cake).

But for a primarily buttercream broad, I was pretty satisfied with the pumpkin’s fondant accents.

Pumpkin Shaped Cake Supplies

  • Enough batter for three cakes (3 standard box mixes)
  • Buttercream Frosting (enough for approximately 3 cakes)
  • Fondant
  • Wilton’s Gel Food Coloring: Green, Orange, Yellow, Royal Blue (the Yellow and Royal Blue are optional colors)
  • Pumpkin Leaf Pattern
  • Toothpicks
  • Specialty Pans: Bundt Pan
The foundation of the pumpkin shaped cake is the bundt pan.

Using the bundt pan in ways it was not intended.

The foundation of the pumpkin-shaped cake is almost always the bundt pan. The contemporary bundt pan was originally designed for baking “bundkuchen”, a type of German coffee cake. Today the bundt pan is used for baking just about any type of cake — even pumpkin.

For the pumpkin cake, bake two bundt cakes. The size of your bundt pan will determine just how much batter is needed, but for the average pan, one box mix will do. Bake time will be considerably longer than when baking two layers from one box — close to twice as long, but start checking the cake early and make sure not to over-bake.

When I started this cake, I thought two bundt cakes were the answer for the perfect pumpkin shape.

I was wrong.

In order to keep the cake from collapsing, I knew I was going to use this stacking method and when I put the cake together, well… just look at the pics:

Looking for the perfect pumpkin cake shape.

Looking for the perfect pumpkin cake shape.

The first picture is of two bundt cakes stacked on top of each other. I like the curved edges on the top and on the bottom, but the curves in the middle are not making me happy.

So I leveled off what would traditionally be the “bottom” of each bundt cake and put the cake back together — and that’s the second image.

I now had a more traditional pumpkin-shaped cake — a very short, kind of flat, pumpkin-shaped cake.

And this is when the third box mix comes into play. I baked two 9″ layers (the size should match the size of your bundt pan). One would be used for the stem of the pumpkin and one would be the middle layer of the pumpkin cake — and that’s the third picture.

Now that I had a shape I was happy with, it was time for the frosting.

Tip: I use disposable chopsticks as my primary source of “dowels” for stacking cakes — not your good chopsticks, but those cheapo break apart ones that always accompany takeout and splinter your lips.

Smooth buttercream frosting.

Smooth buttercream frosting.

If you squeeze one batch of buttercream frosting, you can frost this entire cake, but if you apply frosting with a pastry bag and frosting tip (which tends to put the frosting on thicker), you might need 1.5 batches.

Before you add the orange coloring, set aside 1/2 cup of frosting (this will be the frosting for the stem).

I colored the frosting with Wilton’s Orange gel coloring, but because I wanted a more natural orange (and not cartoon orange), I added a tiny amount of Royal Blue. This just dulls down the orange and is a completely optional step. Once the cake is frosted, use the paper towel method to smooth the frosting.

Making grooved on side of the pumpkin cake.

Making grooved on side of the pumpkin cake.

Allow the smoothed frosting to “rest” for 10-15 minutes.

Place a paper towel on the frosting and gently drag the back of your finger along the cake to make the grooves of the pumpkin.

Stem made from cupcakes and covered in buttercream.

Stem made from cut out cakes circles.

Using a cookie/fondant cutter, cut circles of cake from the second 9″ layer of cake. Stack those layers (you’ll likely need to use toothpicks to stabilize the stack) and carve to your satisfaction. Make sure you don’t carve the stack so skinny that it will fall through the hole in the center of the top bundt cake.

Get the frosting you set aside earlier and color with Wilton Gel coloring (I used Kelly green). Frost the stem and then place the stem in the center of the cake — use toothpicks to hold the stem in place. Drag the tines of a standard dinner fork through the frosting to make it rough.

Pumpkin shaped cake with all buttercream frosting.

Pumpkin shaped cake with all buttercream frosting.

For you buttercream freaks, your work here is done! If you want some fondant extras, continue reading.

Download the pumpkin leaf pattern PDF

Download the pumpkin leaf pattern PDF

If you’re new to fondant, you can either purchase “rolled fondant” (ready-to-use) or make Pix’s Marshmallow fondant. They’re similar to work with, but Pix’s is reportedly yummy. Most ready-to-use fondant is… an acquired taste.

I say Pix’s is “reportedly yummy” because I’m a fondant weenie and I bought ready-to-use. ;)

Once you have the fondant of your choice, color it green with Wilton’s Gel Coloring (check Pix’s tutorial on Coloring Fondant).

But before you do all that, download this pattern and cut out the leaf patterns.

Cutting fondant leaves.

Cutting fondant leaves.

Use the downloaded leaf patterns to create the green fondant leaves.

Fondant leaves draped over plastic containers.

Fondant leaves draped over plastic containers.

To give the fondant leaves some interest, drape them over small plastic containers or bowls or whatever else you have in the kitchen that seems suitable. I used a mixture of plastic containers and chopsticks. :D

Fondant snakes wrapped around chopsticks.

Fondant snakes wrapped around chopsticks.

For the pumpkin vines, roll out some snakes of fondant. I wanted some variety, so I added some Golden Yellow in varying amounts to little bits of the already green fondant. Once you have the snakes, wrap them around chopsticks, lolly sticks, or the round handle of a wooden spoon. Allow the fondant to dry for approximately 30 minutes.

Vine curls removed from chopsticks and shaped.

Vine curls removed from chopsticks and shaped.

Once the vines have dried (but aren’t completely hardened), slide them off the chopsticks and stretch them out. You can also “bend” them so that they will fall more gracefully along the sides of the pumpkin. Allow the fondant to harden fully. If you try to drape the curls on the pumpkin too soon, the weight of the dangling fondant will stretch out the curls completely and/or cause the curls to break.

Pumpkin shaped cake with buttercream frosting and fondant accents.

Pumpkin shaped cake with buttercream frosting and fondant accents.

Once all of your fondant pieces have dried, attach them to the cake. For the curls, I just stuck one end in the buttercream. For the leaves, I just placed them on the pumpkin and allowed them to rest naturally against the stem and sides of the pumpkin.

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