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fruitcake question- cheesecloth?

Hello All,

I have a question about storing fruitcake.

Can anyone tell me why most fruitcake recipes call for wrapping the cake in liquor-soaked cheesecloth before wrapping in plastic wrap/tinfoil? I have found no explanation for this step.

Ages ago I worked in a bakery that used this method, but the recipe I currently use (Alton Brown's, which is excellent) does not call for this.

Is there an advantage to using cheesecloth before wrapping in plastic wrap? Does it somehow help preserve the cake for a longer period of time?

Many thanks.

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  1. Fruit cake is typically wrapped in cheesecloth, then in either plastic wrap or aluminum foil. If you didn't use the cheesecloth layer you'd find the sticky gooey fruit cake sticking to either the container it's stored in or to the covering you used to seal it from the intrusion of other aromas/flavors that reside in the same neighborhood as the one in which you stored your fruit cake.
    The cheesecloth, which normally gets a soaking of liquor or other liquid before being wrapped around the fruit cake, peels away rather easily without seriously damaging the surface of the prepared cheesecake.

    8 Replies
    1. re: todao

      And that is the whole story.

      I don't know why Alton doesn't call for a cheesecloth wrap for his excellent fruitcake recipe, but IIRC, his fruitcake doesn't really get aged forever (although it could be). Possibly he overlooked that step? The cheesecloth tends to stay moist with the alcohol soak or spritz, and also allows some breathing room, rather than a soggy plastic wrapping next to the surface of the fruitcake, leading to soggy rather than moist cake, God forbid, or the aluminum foil overlwrap, which is fine. Wrapping the cake in cheesecloth first, then aluminum foil, no plastic wrap, is really a better way to age a fruitcake.

        1. re: todao

          Wrapping it in rum-soaked cheesecloth also means you don't have to keep unwrapping it and drizzling with rum - it just sits there and nicely matures.

          I make English fruitcake (i.e., not stick gooey) it takes 4 hours to bake - the Alton Brown recipe only takes an hour, interesting.

          1. re: Athena

            My great-grandmother baked her fruitcakes in January, wrapped them in cheesecloth, and then drizzled them with brandy WITHOUT removing the cheesecloth at intervals during the year. As a staunch member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union she could not bring herself to use rum, but brandy is more "refined", you see …

            The arrival of Grandma James's fruitcake meant more to my young self than the Christmas tree, Santa Claus or any of that crap. Dark, dense and insanely rich, with just enough moist cake to hold the fruit together, even with my bottomless appetite the single slice I was allowed every night was enough to fill me and make me very happy.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Did you happen to inherit the recipe?
              It sounds devine. I love a proper fruitcake, and one aged 12 months? Lucky family.

              1. re: rabaja

                Here here, Will Owen. If you happen to have Grandma James recipe, I'd be happy to start the cake in her memory come January.

                1. re: jenn

                  My sincere regrets, but Grandma Kuntz, Grandma James's daughter, was the only cook in the family outside of my mom who ever wrote anything down, or at least whose written recipes have been preserved on our side. Along with Grandma Owen's fried chicken, another great delicacy of my youth, it can now only be approximated. I would start by looking up some 19th C. cake recipes, since the late 1800s was almost certainly when she learned to make it. It would be a simple butter cake, probably with real sour cream and soda. Her fruit always included citron and other candied fruits, candied orange peel, raisins, chopped dates, and pretty light on the nuts (English walnuts or pecans, in small pieces). There was a very gentle spice in there - I'd guess nutmeg or mace plus some ginger. I can't remember whether it was baked in a ring mold or simply a round pan, but they were always about 10" across and put up in round tins, which we were required to return to her!

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    Have a look at Jane Grigson's Country Christmas Cake recipe in her book 'English Food', it is dark, dense and insanely rich - though I Bermudianise it by soaking the the fruit for weeks in Gosling's black rum (way more better than brandy - all that deep dark molasses). It has raisins, sultanas, currants, bitter marmalade, a few glace cherries, English candied orange peel, some chopped almonds, just a lot of STUFF! The baking tin is deep and round and has to be lined with parchment and brown paper with a high collar of brown paper tied around the outside of it. Takes four hours to bake. Will last forever after being wrapped in rum-soaked cheesecloth. Rarely makes it past Boxing Day.

    2. I would like to know is fruit cake taste better served refridgerated or room temp? What makes the difference in taste? HELP ME PLEASE WHAT IS BETTER REFRIDGERATED OR NOT WHEN SERVING? WHAT TASTE THE BEST