Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Out, Out Damned Fruitcake!

We have all seen it: that nefarious brick of glowing fruit chunks glued together with corn syrup and Goddess - knows - what. We were forced to eat a chunk of it by our Mothers every Christmas Eve because it made our sweet old Aunt Martha deliriously happy to watch our little kid faces screw up attempting to chew the sticky mess without spewing it across the room. And we swore we'd never take another bite of fruitcake for as long as we lived. Ever.

That oath ended when I found a wonderful recipe for fruitcake in a1973 Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Craft book. I've made cakes from this recipe-with a few adjustments-nearly every year since. It's essentially a dark spice cake with cooked fruit. I wrap it in cheesecloth ( or pieces of an old clean, worn sheet) soaked in brandy or rum, wrap that in foil then tuck them in zip lock bags. They have to be checked weekly and the cloth soaked periodically to keep the cake moist.

There is nothing to compare to the heady fragrance of a fruitcake's some of the best incense in the world! After a couple of weeks curing in the fridge, you pull it out, unwrap it and slice it in little pieces to serve with a pot of tea or good strong coffee, and it makes you feel all warm, cozy and loved. A morsel of late night fruit cake is a magickal thing...

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup diced mixed candied fruits and peels
1/2 cup raisins or snipped pitted dates
1/2 cup candied red or green cherries, quartered
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 eggs
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice or apple juice
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons mild-flavored molasses
Brandy or fruit juice

Rick fruit base cooked on the stove before adding to the cake mix.
I adapted this basic recipe and added apricots and figs, or prepared mincemeat, which is substituted for 1/2 cup of the candied fruit. I  also add in orange jest and adjust the amounts of spice. Taste it before adding the eggs and dry ingredients. I add a bit of fruit juice and water and cook the fruit on the stove for about ten minutes then let it set to develop the flavors.

1. Grease and lightly flour an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan (or two 5 3/4x3x2-inch loaf pans). Set pan(s) aside. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves. Add fruits and peels, raisins, cherries, and nuts; mix ingredients well.
2. In another mixing bowl beat eggs; stir in brown sugar, juice, butter, and molasses until combined. Stir into fruit mixture. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). (The smaller pans will be quite full.)
3. Bake in a 300 degree F oven for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours for the 8x4x2-inch pan, 55 to 65 minutes for the 5-3/4x3x2-inch pans, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. If necessary, cover pan(s) loosely with foil the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning. Place cake in pan(s) on a wire rack and cool thoroughly.
4. Remove cake from pan(s). Wrap cake in brandy- or fruit juice-moistened 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth. Overwrap with foil. Store in the refrigerator for 2 to 8 weeks to mellow flavors. Re-moisten cheesecloth with brandy or fruit juice weekly or as needed. Makes 16 servings.This cake does not rise, and it's difficult to judge doneness by poking it with a knife. It is very dense and feels solid and heavy when done. The top will be glossy but dry.

1 comment:

  1. I happen to be "the other person" on the planet (Surely, I'm not the ONLY one!) who actually loves fruitcake... but it looks like this recipe of yours really "takes the cake"! (ahem... sorry. Couldn't resist the pun.) At any rate, I can't wait to try it. Thank you! I'm off to the store for ingredients now...


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