Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Köyhän Talon Joulu Kakku: Poor Man's Fruit Cake

In the United States, we often joke about fruit cakes that make the rounds from person to person, uneaten for months after they are given at holiday time. Fruit cake is definitely not a glamourous dessert. So, I wondered what "Poor Man's Fruit Cake" would be like. I was not able to find the word "Talon" in the online Finnish English dictionary, so I'm not 100% sure what that means. And I think the English title may be more accurately stated as "Poor Man's Christmas Cake".

After lunch, I took the first step of cooking all the ingredients except the flour on the stove. Today was a very dark, rainy November day. The mixture, with its cinnamon and cloves, gave the house a nice fragrance and made it a little more cozy. It reminded me of holiday things, like mincemeat pie or Christmas Glögg. I was not sure what type of brown sugar (dark or light) to use, so I used 1/2 a cup of each. And since I had some golden raisins on hand, I used half golden raisins and half brown raisins.

Later, after the cooked mixture had cooled, I mixed in the flour and the 1/2 teaspoon of hot water (that teensy bit of hot water seemed somewhat useless). Despite having read the recipe in advance, I came to the realization that there were no ingredients to leaven the batter -- no eggs, no baking powder or soda. Must be why it is called "poor man's" fruitcake. I started to become more dubious about what the final product would be like.

The type of pan to use was a bit of a mystery. I looked at fruitcake recipes on Epicurious.com. Some used bundt or tube pans, some used loaf pans, and some used springform pans. The batter volumes of those recipes all seemed greater than my Poor Man's Fruit Cake. In the end, I elected to use a 9 inch round cake pan.

As the cake baked, it made the kitchen smell good -- warm and spicy. The result -- a very thin cake -- rather like a pannukakku :) The texture and flavor is kind of like a raisin "Fig Newton" -- chewy, dense, fruity tasting. Is it an elegant dessert? No way! However, it could be a good food for hiking or taking on an informal picnic. While the ingredients are sparse in this recipe, its sensory value is high from beginning to end!

The Revised Recipe: Köyhän Talon Joulu Kakku or Poor Man's Fruit Cake

1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup regular raisins
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Grated rind and juice from one orange
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon hot water

Combine the first ten ingredients (light brown sugar through orange rind and orange juice) in a saucepan. Heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Set the mixture aside and let it cool thoroughly. After the sugar/raisin/spice mixture has cooled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Grease and flour a 9 inch cake pan. Into the sugar/raising/psice mixture, stir in 1 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon hot water. Bake in a 350 oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

The Original Recipe: Köyhän Talon Joulu Kakku or Poor Man's Fruit Cake
source: Recipes and Finnish Specialties, St. Paul Lutheran Church - Gloucester, MA

1 c. brown sugar
1 c. boiling water
1 c. raisins
1 tbsp. shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 orange rind and juice (optional)

Cook 5 min., cool until cold and add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. hot water. Bake in a 350 oven for 45 minutes.

1 comment:

Kaija said...


I'm happy to have my book featured in your blog. So, thank you for that! Talon is a genitive of the word talo=house/home. But I think Poor Man's Fruit Cake is a better translation. If you ever need more Finnish recipes, I'm pretty sure I can help you :)