Christmas Fruitcake

The traditional store-bought canned fruitcake is the scourge of the universe, the butt of many jokes, but a homemade fruitcake is downright delicious!  My father’s mother made a great fruitcake, but I never did see that recipe.  In my own baking, I’ve tended to go with the white fruitcakses, such as my Apricot Macadamia Nut Fruitcake, and leave the dark fruitcakes to someone else.  However, at the store this morning, I saw a display of all the candied fruit – and impulse buying at it’s finest – bought it!

Not having made a dark fruitcake in years, I decided to just go online and see what was out there.  Lots – and a few of them actually looked good.  But one that stuck out was on called “Spiced Dark Fruitcake.”

I changed ingredients around a bit to match what I had bought and here’s the final recipe I used.  It’s an interesting recipe in that one makes the batter on day one, and bakes it on day two – allowing the cake to really meld before going into a slow oven for several hours.  It seemed like the sort of recipe that would have been used back when fruitcakes were held in high esteem.  We shall see.

Spiced Dark Fruitcake

• 4 ounces diced candied orange peel
• 4 ounces diced candied lemon peel
• 8 ounces diced fruitcake mixed fruit
• 8 ounces whole red candied cherries
• 4 ounces whole green candied cherries
• 1 cup currants
• 1/2 cup golden raisins
• 1/2 cup dark raisins
• 2 cups chopped walnuts
• 1/2 cup orange juice
• 1/4 cup brandy
• 1/4 cup bourbon
• 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup plus 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
• 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
• 5 eggs, separated
• 1/2 cup molasses

This batter is quite heavy, but a heavy-duty stand mixer can handle it.

Mix the fruit in a large bowl with the orange juice and brandy. Stir gently and set aside to marinate for a few hours.

Generously butter bottom and sides of two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and line them with parchment paper. Butter the paper thoroughly. You can use brown paper for this if you don’t have parchment paper.

Sift the flour with the spices twice. Add the baking powder and salt and sift again.

Put the butter into a large mixing bowl and cream until smooth. Add sugar; using an electric mixer, cream until light and fluffy. Beat the egg yolks slightly and then add them to the bowl. Mix the batter well before you start to add the flour and spice mixture. Stir the batter as you add the flour, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the flour is thoroughly incorporated, add the molasses and stir. Finally, stir in the fruit, along with any soaking liquid left in the bowl.

Put the egg whites in a stainless steel or glass bowl and beat with a clean beater to stiff peaks. Fold them into the batter thoroughly and then spoon the batter into the prepared pans. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let the batter sit overnight in a cool place to mellow.

On the next day, heat the oven to 250°. Place the fruitcake on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. After 1 1/2 hours, cover the pan with a piece of brown paper (do not use foil) or set the pan in a paper bag and return it to the oven.

When the cake has baked for 3 1/2 hours, test the with a toothpick or cake tester. If the tester comes out of the center of the cake clean, the cake is done. Leave the cake in the pan and set on wire rack to cool.

When the cakes are completely cooled, turn out of the pans, leaving the paper lining on the cake. Wrap the cake with parchment, then foil, and pack the cake in a tin. Homemade fruitcakes need air, so punch a few holes in the lid of the tin or set the cover loosely on the tin.

Set the tin in a cool, undisturbed place, and every 3 or 4 days before Christmas, open the foil and drizzle a small amount of bourbon or brandy over the cake. The liquor will keep the cake most and flavorful and help preserve it as well.

I’ve been emailing my Aunt Kathleen about fruitcake the past few days.  I have this vague memory of having fruitcake with my Paternal Grandmother a bazillion years ago, and asked her if  1) Grandma ever made fruitcake and 2) did she have her recipe, if she did.

Auntie wrote back and said her mother never made fruitcake, but that my mother made the best fruitcake – and she thought she had the recipe.  Memories are funny.  I have a stronger memory of my grandmother’s non-fruitcake than I do my mom’s real one.  (Actually, the memory is having fruitcake and my grandmother explaining what some of the candied fruit was.  I guess I just assumed she made it because back in those days, everybody made everything.)

I went looking through mom’s cookbooks but didn’t find a recipe.  Hopefully, Auntie has it!  If so, I’ll be making that fruitcake also, this year.  Three different styles.

Did I mention that I like fruitcake?