Card-carrying proud pro-fruitcake voterSometimes you just have to take a stand. I am pro-fruitcake. There. I now understand the power and beauty of self-determination. I'm not convinced that the fruitcake I ate in my Danish bedroom, hoping to fill my heart, turned me into a fruitcake lover. Rather, I think I might just have gotten there in spite of it.
Well-loved recipeBecause when I think of fruitcake, I think of the recipe given to me years ago by my sister. Dried fruit and home-candied peel macerate for at least a day in brandy (I left mine for 2 days this year). Nuts, jam, butter, and eggs are added. After baking, the cakes are brushed with brandy frequently and often. Then they are wrapped in cheesecloth (also doused with brandy), plastic, and foil, and set deep in my closet. Dried fruits, candied citrus peel, pecans, and brandy. What exactly is there not to like?
Candied peel and dried fruit bathing in brandyIdeally you'd make this cake in October to give it time to cure. I find that in October I start thinking about making the fruitcake, and in November I candy the peel and buy the dried fruits. Early in December I finally make the cakes. But you might be better than me. If so, dog ear this recipe and come back next October.
Ready to bake
Wrapped in brandy-soaked cheeseclothLuckily, the recipe makes a lot of cake. We'll eat some at Christmas (even if it hasn't aged as long as it should), slice some to add to cookie boxes, and give some whole cakes away (only to card carrying pro-fruitcake people). What's left will go back into the deepest corner of my closet, to be enjoyed next year--and maybe even the one after. Just remember to occasionally open them up and brush with more brandy. They like that.
They also like freshly grated nutmegAnd if you find yourself eating a fruitcake with insane greediness, don't feel too ashamed. It happens to the best of us, and your secret is safe with me. A few notes:
- This makes a lot of fruitcake (I baked 2 large loaves, 7-6x3 loaves, and 4-4 inch round pans). You might want to divide it.
- I thought I was pretty clever buying the paper pans that you don't need to line. Except it would work better if you did. Next time I'll stick to pans and parchment paper.
- For a full recipe, finding a bowl big enough to mix everything is slightly tricky. This year I felt pretty smug for realizing my turkey roaster insert was perfect--it made mixing a breeze.
- I've tried both grinding and chopping the fruit. I prefer chopping; grinding in the Kitchenaid made a mass of fruit too uniform for my taste. On the other hand, chopping 8-9 pounds of fruit takes a long time.Pick your poison.
- I use pretty cheap brandy. This dates to the early years of my marriage, when we had a glut of brandy. My grandfather, the most frugal and also most generous person I've known, gave the same presents every Christmas. Women got a 2 lb. box of See's Nuts and Chews; men got a fifth of brandy. When I married, I learned the true beauty of marriage: you got the chocolate AND the brandy. And, unlike the IRS, Babbo didn't differentiate between married couples and unmarried--all couples came out ahead.
- I dislike most dried pineapple, as it tends to have a lot of added sugar and not taste much like pineapple (or anything else, for that matter). If you can't find one that doesn't have added sugar, I'd use more candied peel and less dried pineapple (or even all candied peel).
- Homemade candied peel is wonderful. It's not hard to make. It impresses people. It makes your life better. Make some.
I felt like Christo wrapping all those cakes
Chop or grind 8-9 lbs. dried fruit:
- 1-1/2 lbs dates
- 1-1/2 lbs figs
- 2 lbs cherries (try to find sour)
- 2 lbs candied peel and dried pineapple
- 1-1/2 lbs raisins and currants
Next day: Preheat oven to 300º. Toss the fruit mixture with a little flour (about 1/4 cup). Add:
- 6 cups chopped pecans
- 8-12 ounces dark jam (blackberry or black currant) or marmalade
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 lb. butter, add
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 lb. brown sugar (about 2-3/4 cups packed)
- 12 eggs; then stir in
- 1 lb flour (4 cups)
- 2 teaspoons salt
When the cakes are done (you can tell with the toothpick in the middle of the cake), turn them out of their pans immediately to cool on a rack. Have a dish of brandy and a brush ready--you'll start soaking them while still warm. I just brush on as much as they will take. When the cakes are cooled, wrap them in cheesecloth that you've soaked with still more brandy, and then in plastic and foil. I've kept these cakes for up to two years in a cool closet. I just try to remember to open them up every month or two and brush with more brandy.
You have a lot of leeway with the proportions of dried fruit. Here's what I used this year:
- 14 oz dates
- 12 oz currants
- 16 oz raisins
- 34 oz figs (mixed Calmyrna and mission)
- 15 oz cherries
- 9 oz pineapple
- 16 oz candied orange peel
- 5 oz citron (I candied a small Buddha's hand citron--recipe in Chez Panisse Fruit)