I named it “Holiday cake” because, obviously, we make it for holidays. Almost every holiday, really. Traditionally, it is made for Easter, but we like it so much that in my home it must be made for Christmas as well. It is kind of like Italian Panettone… only Panettone is more like a sweet bread, and this is more of a cake. The ingredients are quite similar though, so I guess the ratio of ingredients makes all the difference.
So what it is then? It is a wonderful cake made with yeast, packed with raisins and flavoured with orange zest. It is really soft and the flavour is really mild itself, but in the combination with sweet raisins and spicy orange zest it works really well. I like to eat it as a cake, but my grandmother says she likes it best with her morning coffee. Oh and the best part is that it will stay fresh for up to a week.
For Easter I make it in a big round shape, just like you would make Panettone. For Christmas I bake it in a bundt pan because it looks more festive. It looks best if baked in a smaller pan so it rises really high. So if you don’t have a proper baking pan, here is what I do. I take an old pot (just make sure it is oven safe), lign the bottom and sides with parchment paper making sure that baking paper comes up higher that the sides of the pot and then I staple ends of parchment paper together to secure baking paper from splitting. So I have a kind of paper mold.
As the cake bakes, it might rise higher that the sides of the pot, but baking paper will keep its shape. I took a pot with diameter of 19 cm (Φ19 cm/7,5 in) and sides high 10 cm (4 in).If you like, add a topping to the cake. My first thought would be butter and jam, but go ahead and put some Nutella on (you know you want to), or chocolate sauce, or berry fruits… Or eat it plain as is because it is just sooooo good.
preparation time: about 2 hours, rising included
baking time: about 1 hour, depends on the pan size, 160°C/320 F
pan size: Φ19 cm/7,5 in or similar or bundt pan Φ22 cm/8,7 in
Ingredients for the dough:
1 large orange
100 g raisins
125 ml milk
5 g (1,5 tsp) active dry yeast + 1 tsp sugar
125 g butter
500 g white flour
100 g sugar
1 tsp salt
3 whole eggs
1. Wash and dry the orange. Zest the outer orange skin into the flour and then squeeze the juice out. Put the raisins in a small bowl and pour orange juice over them. Toss them around so they are all well coated in juice and leave them until they are ready to be mixed into the dough (step 6).
Raisins are dry and therefore tend to be hard and bitter when baked. Soaking up the liquid will make them softer, plus it will enhance the orange aroma in the cake. If you like rum, soak them in rum instead of orange juice, or mix the two together. This would also give great flavour.
2. Prepare the yeast mixture. Put milk in a small sauce pan and heat in on medium high heat until it gets luke warm. Add a teaspoon of sugar and yeast and stir it all together. Let it sit in a warm spot for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast gets foamy and bubbly.
3. Melt the butter and let it cool for a bit, but don’t let it harden back into a block.
4. Use electric mixer with dough hook attached. You can make the dough with wooden spoon as well, but it will take much longer (this is not a dough that you can knead by hand, it will be much softer). In a big bowl sift together flour, sugar and salt. Add milk and yeast mixture and mix it well into the flour. While mixing, add one egg at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Finally, slowly, while still mixing on low speed, add melted butter and mix it in.
5. Mix everything for about 5 minutes or until it gets really smooth and is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl. Dough should be very soft, not dry enough to knead it, but dryer than i.e. cake batter… Cover it with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour.
6. After the dough has risen, add raisins. Add ONLY the raisins soaked up in the juice, not the leftover juice because it will make the dough too soggy. Mix everything once again with electric mixer on low speed until the raisins are well distributed throughout the dough and transfer it into the mold. Use round or bundt, doesn’t matter, but be aware of the size of the pan (see intro). Let it rise again for about 30-40 minutes, or until it gets all puffed up.
7. Bake in a preheated oven at 160°C (320 F) for about an hour. The time of baking will vary on the size of the baking pan. If your pan is smaller and the cake is taller, it might bake for up to 1 h 20 min. If the pan is larger and the cake is shorter, it might be done even after 50 minutes. It should be golden brown on top and if you insert a toothpick in the center, it should come out clean, with no wet crumbs. Also, if the top gets really dark, but the cake still needs some time to bake, cover the top with aluminum foil and continue baking – this will prevent the top from browning any further and allow the cake to bake all the way.
8. Take the baked cake out of the oven and let it cool a bit in the mold.
If you were using a bundt pan, after about 10 minutes, take a serving plate, cover the top of the mold and flip the cake – it should come right out. If you have trouble taking the cake out (which you shouldn’t have if the cake was baked all the way through and if you prepared the pan by brushing it with butter and flour or using a non stick spray), take a small sharp knife to loosen the sides by slowly scraping between the mold and the cake.
9. Let the cake cool or dig right in. I like it best warm. Enjoy with a cup of milk or coffee. Store it in a cool place covered with a kitchentowel for up to a week.