Bwhahahahaha! Fruitcake! – (Truly Exceptional Recipe Included)
Fruitcakes go all the way back to ancient Rome and it’s possible that there are some fruitcakes still being passed around from that time! (LOL!) Actually, the ones made then and the ones made for hundreds of years after that were, apparently, delicious. The problem started when some idiot invented so-called “candied fruit.” There is good candied fruit in the world but none of it is found in commercially prepared (American) fruitcakes or in most modern fruitcake recipes. This is not the fault of fruitcake, it’s the fault of those little tubs of bitter, improbably-colored “fruit” commonly available this time of year. There is none of that in this recipe which goes a very long way to explaining why this fruitcake is edible. Oh, that and all the liquor….
I will admit that until I was well into my twenties, fruitcakes haunted me. This was for a reason. My father loves fruitcake. I guess someone has to but, in truth, he is also incredibly picky about it. He only likes dark fruitcake and for many years he only liked the fruitcake he could get at a specific store…until they stopped making them because, well…it’s fruitcake. The problem is, of course, that the word got out that dad loved fruitcake so everyone on the planet happily gave (re-gifted?) him fruitcakes. This explains why my early years were haunted by bad fruitcake.
Ultimately, my dad spent several years bemoaning the lack of “decent fruitcake” which is, I realize, an oxymoron. Finally, I set out on a mission to make a fruitcake he would love. This took doing. Many recipes and considerable experimentation was involved but, at long last, I got there and this fruitcake is absolutely delicious. The smell when it’s baking is one of my favorite scents of the whole holiday season. This cake is time consuming but worth every minute because not only will you love the result but being able to serve your terrified family and friends truly scrumptious fruitcake is well worth the effort.
As a side note, this is the last installment in the holiday recipes series of posts. I’ll be posting things about the company and harps in my more occasional future blog entries. For all those of you who have sent the kind thank-you’s for this series I send out an extra big hug. You made me smile over and over and over again. Thank you!
Pamela’s Dark Fruitcake
(for my father, Charles Stanley, who loves this dark fruitcake so very much)
• 1 ¾ c self-rising flour
• ½ tsp nutmeg
• ½ tsp ginger
• ½ tsp cloves
• ½ tsp cinnamon – I like the Saigon Roasted Cinnamon because the additional toasted flavor is especially nice.
• 9 c chopped, dried fruit (apricots, peaches, cherries, mission figs, golden raisins, currants etc) – The important thing is to have a really good mixture. Go heavy on the dried apricots and dried peaches. For me those two comprise at least four cups of the total. Don’t use black raisins if you are going to use currants and I do strongly recommend the currents for this recipe. I use golden raisins because they are distinctly a different flavor from the currents so they mix well with them. If you use figs remember to cut off the small stem. For all of the fruit, cut it up fairly small. For an apricot, for instance, I cut it in half vertically and then cut each half into thirds. I cut dried cherries in half. Raisins and currents are, of course, fine as they are.)
• 6 oz toasted chopped walnuts – You can actually use any toasted nut you really like here. I often combine toasted almonds and walnuts.
• ¼ c brandy
• ¼ c Madeira or Marsala wine
• ¼ c port
• 1 tsp orange flower water – Don’t skip this. It’s an important part of the body of flavor.
• 1 tsp rose water – Same here, this is an important flavor for this cake.
• 1 TSPB Amaretto
• 1 TBSP Kirsch – This is a liquor from cherries. A good liquor store will have it in stock.
• Grated rind & strained juice of 1 medium orange – A larger “grate” will give you a more robust flavor, which I like.
• Grated rind and strained juice of 1 medium lemon – Grate this a bit more finely.
• 2 TBSP molasses
• 2 TBSP golden syrup – I keep (British) golden syrup in my pantry but if you don’t you can substitute light Karo syrup or even dark (real) maple syrup.
• 1 c softened butter – As with all my baking, I use European-style butter for the added flavor.
• 1 ½ c packed dark brown sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 2, 12oz jars of sieved apricot jam – Sieve this very well. There should be absolutely no lumps so that your glaze will be easily absorbed into the cake.
1. Move your oven rack to one level below center and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. This is the right temperature but wait a while to actually turn on the oven. Chopping all that dried fruit takes some time. Do note that this cake bakes for three hours and then needs your attention two hours after that so plan your day accordingly.
2. Prepare a 9 x 3” round cake pan with removable bottom (often called a Springform pan) by placing a disk of buttered brown parchment in the bottom. Butter the rest of the pan as well. Be sure to use butter and not cooking spray or shortening.
3. Sift the flour, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon together in a very large mixing bowl.
4. Add the dried fruit and toasted nuts. Stir until well mixed.
5. In a separate bowl, combine the brandy, Madeira, port, orange flower water, rose water, Amaretto, Kirsch, fruit juice and rind.
6. In a saucepan combine the molasses and golden syrup. Stir and heat until warm. Keep a close eye on this so it does not boil or burn. Because of the sugars, once it starts to get warm it gets much hotter very quickly. Take it off the burner and allow this to cool just a bit before adding it as noted below.
7. Using an electric mixer cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add sugar gradually, mixing well.
8. In a separate, small bowl beat the eggs. When finished, stir them into the butter mixture and beat until mixed.
9. Now add the somewhat cooled syrup mixture into the butter mixture and beat again until smooth.
10. Alternate adding the butter and liquor mixtures into the big bowl of fruit. Hand stir well after each addition.
11. Pour into the prepared cake pan. Pack well and smooth the top.
12. Bake for 1 hour then reach in and turn the cake 180 degrees.
13. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake 2 hours longer or until the cake tests as done.
14. Cool on rack for at least 2 hours right side up.
15. Flip the cake when you remove it from the pan after two hours. Remove the parchment. The cake will still be warm and this is important because it allows it to better absorb the glaze.
16. Brush with sieved apricot jam. Lay it on thick because so much of it will soak into the body of the cake.
17. Allow cake to cool completely. If necessary, brush with jam a second time.
18. Allow jam glaze to set before moving the cake or wrapping it for shipping. This usually means allowing it to set overnight.
If desired, serve with almond paste, hard sauce or French vanilla ice cream. No matter what, always serve it warm. Also, I learned from my dad that because this cake is so rich he freezes sections of it which he enjoys year round. In other words, it freezes well. Dad portions it out so that he finally runs out in the Fall and only has to wait a short time for his new cake. No joke. I do have to admit though, it is that good.
Use this recipe wisely and with good cheer. – From all of us at Rees Harps, Happy New Year!!