Why this sweet holiday celebration cake should bear this curious and confusing name is a mystery. Nothing about it is remotely Japanese, nor does it qualify as a fruitcake in any traditionally Southern definition of the word. Like classic fruitcake, it is enjoyed widely throughout the South as a holiday-season celebration cake. It contains raisins, spices, lemon and orange zest, and fresh coconut, so let’s all welcome it to the fruitcake family with a big ol’ hug. Think of it as a luscious layer cake containing spices, pecans, and raisins in two of its four layers. A coconut-orange glaze adorns the surface of the cake in a lacy, citrus-kissed curtain, tempting you to ask for a big slice of it, no matter what it is called.
To make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter and flour four
In a large bowl, combine the butter and the sugar, and beat with a mixer at high speed to combine them well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to make a smooth, fluffy mixture. Stir the vanilla into the milk. Add about half the flour mixture, and then half the milk, beating at low speed after each addition only to mix everything together well. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk.
Divide half the batter between 2 of the pans, and set them aside. Stir the raisins, nuts, and spices into the remaining batter. Divide this spiced batter between the 2 remaining pans, and set all 4 cake pans in the oven.
Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the layers are golden brown, pulling away from the sides of the pans, and spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool the layers on a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel for 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto the wire racks or onto plates to cool completely, top side up.
While the cake is baking, make the filling. In a heavy medium saucepan, bring the 1 cup of water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and coconut, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil, and cook for 7 minutes, stirring now and then. Mix the cornstarch into the cold water, stir well, and then add the mixture to the pan, mixing to dissolve it into the filling. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the filling is thickened and clear. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl, and cool to room temperature, stirring now and then.
To complete the cake, place a plain, unspiced layer, top side down, on a cake stand or serving plate, and poke little holes all over it so that some of the filling will penetrate the cake. Spread about one fourth of the cooled filling over the layer all the way to the edges. Place a spiced layer over the filling, poke holes all over, and spread with another quarter of the filling. Repeat with the remaining layers and filling, placing the final spiced layer top side up and pouring all the remaining filling over the layer so that a little cascades down the sides of the cake. Let stand for several hours to firm up, and cover and chill overnight. If possible, remove the cake from the refrigerator an hour or so in advance of serving time, to return to room temperature.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Chronicle Books.