Fruitcake fanciers of the world unite! It's that time of the year again...
I love homemade fruitcake. It's not Christmas without, as far as I am concerned. I spent a good bit of last weekend confecting a half portion of my mother-in-law's recipe (a dark one, with brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, mace, and cloves). It was developed over several years by my mother-in-law and her wonderful aunt, both of whom are/were excellent bakers. It calls for candied grapefruit and angelica, neither of which are easily found these days (ashamed to say I substitute more citron and orange peel). It is a lot of work (1 1/2 hrs to prepare the fruit, 1 hr roughly to prepare the pans, 2 hrs to get the batter made and the cakes in the oven, 2 1/2 hours + to bake) but makes a super fruitcake. And smells wonderful baking. The amount I made makes 3 x 4 lb + cakes (in full-sized 9" x 5" pans), how they ever managed with the full recipe I will never know (apparently they mixed it in a new clean garbage can). I would be happy to post the recipe if anyone would be interested, and would be delighted to see other family heirloom or favorite recipes.
Here is the recipe for the one I made, as amended.
Fruit and nuts:
1 lb candied orange rind, 1/2 lb candied lemon rind, 1/2 lb candied citron, 1/4 lb candied or dried pineapple, 1 lb green and red candied cherries, 2 lb raisins (used 1 box each Sunkist regular and golden raisins, plus enough currants to make 2 lb total), 2 lb seedless dates, 1 lb pecan halves
Prepare the fruit:
Tip the packages into a large stainless steel or other non-reactive pot with a cover (I used a Cuisinart ss Dutch oven). Cut each date into 3-4 pcs with scissors, add to fruit and nuts. Pour 1/2 cup of "sweet wine" (per recipe, I used Zinfandel port, you could use whatever you like) over and let sit covered, overnight.
Prepare the pans:
Grease with Crisco and line 3 9x5 inch loaf pans with parchment, leaving some on each side as a sling to get the cakes out when done. I cut long strips to line the pan lengthwise, grease that, and then cut pieces of suitable size to line them widthwise. This is just about as much fun as it sounds. You can use any assortment of plain loaf or springform pans you like, you just have to watch the cakes while baking and take them out as they get done.
Prepare the cake batter:
Cream 2 cups softened butter with 1 lb light brown sugar. Beat in 8 eggs, one at a time. Add 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp mace, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda. Add 4 cups a-p flour intermittently with 1/2 cup molasses plus 1/2 cup sweet wine or other booze (1 c flour, 1/3 cup liquid, ending with the last cup of flour).
Prepare the cake mixture:
Put half of the fruit etc into the biggest bowl you can lay hands on. (I weighed out equal portions). Leave the other half in the original receptacle.
Put half of the batter into each (again, I weighed it).
Squish everything together with your hands (this is the fun part). Make sure you really get everything coated more or less evenly.
Get your husband to give everything a big stir with a wooden spoon for good luck (optional, but fun).
Put the mix into the pans:
Divide equal portions into each pan (I weighed them, it was about 4 1/2 lb per 9x5" pan). Use palette knife to push batter down and make sure it reaches the corners. Bang each pan on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
Bake the cakes:
275 deg F oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Put foil over tops if they seem to be browning too much. Rose Levy Beranbaum says fruitcake should be at 190 deg F when done - mine only reached 180 after 2 hrs 40 mins and were quite brown, so left them in the turned-off oven for a few hours.
Let them cool completely - overnight - before wrapping in plastic wrap and foil to age in a cool place.
One thing I found out doing this is that you can weigh things in big pots etc on a Salter scale (and still be able to see the weight display) by inverting a small rectangular plastic container (e.g. the kind Chinese restaurants use here for leftovers) on the weighing plate, taring to zero, and putting the big pot on top of that. You learn something new every day.
And if you haven't eaten fruitcake bite for bite with a really well-aged Cheddar (5-7 yr old Canadian is my favorite), you haven't lived. My mom was taught to do this by neighbors from the north of England, has been a family favourite (to put it in proper spelling) ever since.
It's not a traditional long-keeping dark fruitcake, but I am also a fan of this golden fruitcake, which is much like a pound cake chock-full of dried fruits, nuts, and marzipan. I use the dried fruits and nuts that appeal to me.
re: Caitlin McGrath
That sounds great, may use that recipe for the rest of my fruit. Combining two of the best things in the world, fruitcake and marzipan. My mom occasionally went whole hog and put almond paste on top of her fruitcakes, frosted them with royal icing, and decorated them with silver dragées. Delicious but gets a bit scruffy-looking when cut into repeatedly. Nick Malgieri has an excellent recipe for an English teacake in his Baker's Tour - has a layer of marzipan baked into a light fruitcake with predomninantly raisins and currants - made that last year and it was fantastic and very attractive with the dark fruit against the light cake (omes out exactly as depicted in the photo).
Here's my MIL's recipe for fruitcake. It weighs about 7 lbs when it comes out of the oven.
1 lb. butter
3 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. mace
1 tsp. salt
1/2 lb each of red candied cherries, green candied cherries, red candied pineapple, green candied pineapple, all cut
1 lb. golden raisins
1 qt. pecans
1 qt. walnuts
Cream butter and sugar together, Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Sift dry ingredients together, add to creamed mixture and beat well. Stir in fruits and nuts. Pour into large tube pan that has been greased and lined with heavy paper. Bake at 275 for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until tests done. Drizzle with apple brandy. Cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in cool place in airtight container to "ripen". About 1/2 hours before cake is done, brush the top with light corn syrup. Decorate with fruits and nuts. Return to oven for final baking. This is a light-colored fruit cake.
Yes, please post, I am a lover of all things fruitcake, well, not ALL of them; I've been making the traditional Guiness cake for a few years now, with walnuts and sultanas, but feel I might switch up this year.
Let's see what'cha got! Thanks.
Here's the Guiness Cake recipe, BTW. I found it in an old Punch magazine years ago, I think it's originally a recipe from the brewery:
Guinness Cake, makes one loaf
8 oz. butter, unsalted
8 oz. dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
10 oz. AP Flour (two cups)
2 level tsps. of mixed spice (1 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp clove, 1/2 tsp ginger and 1/4 tsp nutmeg) sieved together with the flour
8 oz. currants
8 oz. sultanas (golden raisins)
4 oz. chopped candied orange peel, I make it
12 Tbs. Guinness Stout
4 oz. walnuts, toasted and chopped
Cream butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour and mixed spice. Then add currants, sultanas, candied peel, and walnuts. Mix well together. Stir 4 Tbs. of Guinness into the mixture. Mix into a soft consistency. Turn into a prepared loaf pan. Back in a very moderate oven, 350* and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Let cool. Remove from pan. Prick base of the cake with a fork or skewer and spoon the remaining Guinness over. Wrap in foil and keep cake for at least 1 week before eating, two weeks is better. Freezes nicely.
I've adapted this a wee bit over the years, don't use molasses anymore.
I know what you mean, ingredients were around $80.00 and man am I beat, it is a big undertaking. The last time my mother-in-law and great-aunt made it together, auntie was well over 80. God knows how they managed (an all-day session, from about 11 am to around 2 am, complete with glazing and decorating the cakes when done).