Just place some colorful dried fruit in a skillet with butter and sugar, spread a tender buttermilk-cake batter over the top, pop it all in the oven and voila! Garnished with orange-flavored whipped cream and garnet-like pomegranate seeds, this fragrant, beautiful Jewel Cake inspired by our Chef of the Month could become a Yuletide favorite at your house.
Or if you’re looking for a classic holiday dessert, we have the recipes right here, including a melt-in-your-mouth Plum Pudding, a luscious Mince Pie, a Candied Tuscan Fruitcake that will change the way you feel about that much-maligned dessert forever, and a lighterbut no less flavorfulversion of Apple Tart made with honey. This way to both the Jewel Cake and the classic recipes:
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup dried apricots
1/3 cup dried prunes
2 tablespoons dark raisins
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 cup cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoons orange flower water
Whipped cream flavored with 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1. For the fruit: Use a 10-inch cast-iron pan. Heat it over medium heat, melt the butter in it, and then stir in the sugar, cooking until it is dissolved. Remove pan from heat.
2. Cut a few of the dried apricots in quarters and leave the rest whole. Place all dried fruits in a saucepan, add water to cover, and simmer about 15 minutes, or until softened. Drain, and gently squeeze out the moisture. Arrange fruits evenly over the bottom of the pan.
3. For the batter: Preheat oven to 375F. Mix together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Add flavorings, then beat in eggs one at a time until mixture is smooth. Scrape down the bowl, stirring again to incorporate any butter bits. Stir in buttermilk. Add dry ingredients, one third at a time, to the butter mixture, scraping up the batter from the bottom of the bowl to mix well. Spread batter smoothly over fruit in pan.
4. Bake about 35 minutes in center of oven, until cake is springy to the touch and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then invert onto a cake plate.
5. For the garnish: Cut pomegranate in quarters and remove seeds, placing them in a bowl. Sprinkle seeds with sugar and orange flower water. Refrigerate. Whip the cream, sweeten to taste, and add the orange zest. Serve the cake warm with the chilled pomegranate seed and whipped cream.
And here are the recipes for these classic holiday favorites:
Inspired by Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison (Broadway Books, 1997).