Baking is not just an exact science but also a labor of love — often a work-intensive, time-absorbing and painstaking craft. For Jana Roerick, baker-owner of Jana’s Bake Shop on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island and author of the new “The Little Island Bake Shop” cookbook, baking is part of who she is.
“Growing up, desserts were an uncommon luxury in our family,” Roerick recalls. “One day, when I was about nine years old, I came home from school to find a beautifully elaborate, frosted layered cake in our fridge given to us by a family friend. It was something I had never seen before, let alone tasted. Needless to say, one slice of that cake and I was hooked.”
At Jana’s Bake Shop, Roerick puts her signature on butter tarts, quiches, fruit pies and more at the shop heralded for its baked goods. Her new cookbook, which debuted last week in the United States, lays out 80 of her favorite, easy-to-make recipes in an approachable and delicious manner.
“I have always believed in classic desserts that are gently sweetened, made in small batches with quality ingredients,” she says. “This has been my guiding philosophy throughout my careers and at Jana’s Bake Shop.”
The baker shares her recipe for the classic fruit cake, doused in a little rum. She prefers a dry amber rum and, locally speaking, recommends Puget Sound Rum Co.‘s Rum47 Amber.
“Soaking the fruit in rum acts to not only fill marry the flavors together, but also to help preserve the cake for many months,” Roerick says. “In fact, the longer the fruits soak, and the longer the cake sits after baking, the better it is.”
Though Jana’s Bake Shop soaks fruit for about four months in large crockpots to get it plump and preserved, this recipe can be done in a week.
Fruit Cake, Dark and Delicious
Makes 4 (6-inch) cakes
4 cups raisins
4 cups chopped pitted prunes
4 cups chopped dried apricots
2 cups candied peels
2 cups dried cranberries
3 cups aged rum, divided
2 cups (4 sticks) butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups fancy molasses
Place all the dried fruit in a large glass jar or ceramic container and stir in 2 cups of the rum. Cover and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months, but at least 1 week. Be sure to stir once a week. (Alternatively, if the seal on the container is secure, turn every so often.)
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Grease four 6-inch round baking pans.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl, beat butter, sugars and molasses until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1-2 at a time. Scrape bowl often to ensure the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Create a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Pour the butter mixture into centre, followed by the fruit mixture. Using a spatula, fold ingredients together, starting from outside in, until batter is evenly mixed.
Divide batter evenly between prepared baking pans and level with an offset spatula. Bake on the bottom rack for 40 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 300° F and move the pan to the centre rack. Bake for another 40-50 minutes, until firm to the touch or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from oven and drizzle remaining 1 cup of rum overtop of the cakes. Set aside to cool completely. Using plastic wrap, tightly wrap the each of the cakes twice, then store them in a cool room for at least 3 days before serving. They store very well because of the rum and, properly wrapped, can last for months.
Excerpted from “The Little Island Bake Shop” by Jana Roerick. Photographs by DL Acken. Copyright 2019 by Jana Roerick. Excerpted with permission from Figure 1 Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.