A homemade fruitcake is a revelation of how delicious it is to wrap your mouth around a spicy-rich chewy-sweet delight. The pleasure is reminiscent of summer fruits though they have been transformed by sun, heat, air and time to deeper complexity. Preserving fruits by drying has a long, even ancient, history by virtue of its simplicity. The technique allowed the plenty of summer and autumn to be saved through winter and spring, a transfer in time, and in place so people in cold climates could taste exotic fruits from far away.
I’ve always loved fruitcakes! Years ago, I used a recipe that required macerating a variety of dried fruits: raisins, cherries, pineapple, apricots… in rum. They were than cooked in sugared fruit juice until they were very plump and almost candied. That recipe involved separating the eggs, beating the whites to stiff peaks. The batter was mixed, fruit and nuts added, and finally the whites were folded in. It made the very best fruitcake—friends still ask if I’ll be making fruitcake for Christmas! Unfortunately the recipe is lost.
Here is Alton Brown’s recipe. I didn’t get started on it two weeks ago so it will be a New Year’s fruitcake. And yes, of course we have tasted it a little: it’s not that fabulous fruitcake I made years ago, but it’s tasty. And who knows but in a week its flavors will have developed and melded to perfection.
Note: I tripled the recipe so I could share small cakes with friends and family.
Free Range Fruitcake
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown
10-inch loaf pan
tripled recipe amounts in parenthesis
9-inch loaf pan plus 12 small loaf pans
Top inside dimensions: 5-9/16″ x 3-1/4″ Depth: 2″ Capacity in fluid ounces: 15
- 1 cup golden raisins (3 cups)
- 1 cup currants (3 cups)
½ cup sun dried cranberries
½ cup sun dried blueberries
- ½ cup sun dried cherries (1 ¾ cups)
- ½ cup dried apricots, chopped (2 cups)
- Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely (3 lemons’ zest)
- Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely (3 oranges’ zest)
- ¼ cup candied ginger, chopped (¾ cup)
- 1 cup
gold rum brandy (3 cups)
- 1 cup sugar (3 cups)
- 5 ounces unsalted butter (5 ¾ sticks)
- 1 cup unfiltered apple juice (3 cups)
- 4 whole cloves, ground (¼ teaspoon)
- 6 allspice berries, ground (½ teaspoon)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (1 Tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger (1 Tablespoon)
- 1 ¾ cups all purpose flour (5 ¼ cups)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (1 Tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (1 Tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 Tablespoon)
- 2 eggs (6 eggs)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken (1 ½) cups)
- Brandy for basting and/or spritzing
Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add the brandy and soak overnight.
Pour the fruit and soaking liquid into a stainless steel pot. Add the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil often stirring with a wide silicon, then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat to cool for at least 15 minutes. (The recipe can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing the cakes.)
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Use a large wooden spoon or a wide spatula to quickly form the batter. Stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, and finally fold in nuts.
Lightly oil your loaf pans and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.
Remove cakes from oven and place on cooling rack. Baste the tops with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.
When cakes are completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing, food safe containers. I store mine in the refrigerator. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy. The cake’s flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks.
Notes: I can detect the taste of baking soda, never my favorite: the beaten egg white technique might allow for less.
I would add more nuts, say decorate the top of each cake with pecans.
And I would like a bit more spice: cinnamon and cloves especially.