Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Buon Natale! Zelten Trentino

This rich fruitcake is traditionally made during the holidays in the Trentino Alto Adige, the region that borders Italy with Austria and Switzerland. “Zelten” is the German word for “rarely”. It was called Zelten  because the cake was only eaten in Christmas. It is studded with nuts and dried fruits and flavored with spices and grappa or rum. You can notice the German influence in the region from the first bite of this cake. This influence is also noticed in the architecture, the manners, the bilingual road signs, and the cuisine. Every family keeps their own recipe of Zelten in secret, but all of them include dried fruits, nuts, cinnamon and liquor. This is my interpretation of this wonderful cake.

  • 16 ounces mixed dried fruit (dates, apricots, raisins, etc)
  • 8 ounces nuts (blanched almonds, walnuts, etc)
  • ¾ cup plus dark rum or grappa
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup mixed nuts and fruit
  • ½ cup apricot preserve
  • 2 tablespoon water
Cut the dried fruits and nuts in ¼ inch pieces.

In a large bowl, combine fruits and nuts and toss with rum (or grappa), orange juice and zest. The mixture may be left covered several days at this point.
When you’re ready to bake the cake set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray an 9 inch spring form pan with a removable bottom. Line the bottom of the pan with buttered parchment paper. Mix flour with baking powder, salt and spices and set aside. Whisk eggs and sugar until white and creamy.
 Add the melted butter and mix until combined. Beat in half of the flour mixture and half of the water. Continue alternating flour mixture and water until all is combined. 
 Pour batter over fruit and nuts and fold thoroughly together. 
 Press batter into the prepared pan. If desired, decorate the top of the cake with nuts and dried fruits.
Bake until firm and no longer wet, about 1 hour, being careful not to overbake.
 To make the glaze, heat the apricot preserve and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until liquid (melted).  Remove from heat and strain the jam through a fine strainer to remove any fruit lumps. Let cool until it is only slightly warm and then glaze the cake, using a pastry brush
 Enjoy! Buon Natale!