Okay… If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to make your Holiday Fruitcakes. Baking them now gives you a full two months before Christmas and New Years to drizzle your love-laden creations with Brandy (or Rum or whatever festive spirit you prefer) weekly, before serving!
I’ll just give you my recipe and let your imaginations take off as far as the Fruit, Nut and other additions go. Make your Holiday Fruitcake your own, unique tribute to all your friends and family who are blessed with a sweet tooth! Just stay within the overall proportions of Fruit and Nuts and Peel to batter…
First, go shopping…
Here is the list of ‘special’ ingredients for my Holiday Fruitcake, most of which you probably won’t have on hand in your pantry:
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) Brandy (or spirit as suggested above) plus extra for brushing the cake
Juice and Zest (outer orange skin) of 1 Orange
Zest (outer yellow skin) of 1 Lemon
1/2 cup Molasses (for Dark Cake only)
1 cup (250 ml) ground Almonds
1 cup (250 ml) chopped Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Pecans, Cashews, or Almonds
1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) of an assortment of semi-dried Fruits (Dates, Apricots, Figs, Prunes,
XXX etc.), Candied and chopped Mixed Peel, and Glacé Cherries
3/4 pound (340 grams) of an assortment of Raisins, Sultanas, Currants, Dried Cranberries
XXX and/or Cherries
The following ingredients will also be needed, but you should already have these in stock:
1 cup (250 ml) unsalted Butter
1/2 cup (110 grams) Light Brown sugar
1/2 cup (110 grams) Dark Brown sugar
3 large Eggs
2 Cups (500 ml) All-purpose Flour
1 Teaspoon (5ml) Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon (3 ml) Salt
Some notes on substitutions and preparations…
Don’t feel you have to put all the above-mentioned ingredients in your Fruit and Nut mixtures. That would, in fact, be crazy! I, for example, like to go with some chopped dried Apple or Papaya plus chopped Dates, Candied Peel and Glacé Cherries for the first Fruit mix. For the second, I like to use part Sultanas and part Golden Raisins along with some Currents – very traditional, there.
As for the Nuts, I usually stick with Hazelnuts, Walnuts and Pecans; again, very traditional.
As noted in the ingredients list, only add Molasses if you want to make a Dark Cake. And use all Dark Brown Sugar for a Dark Cake, too.
The Glacé Cherries can be left whole or halved. I like to leave them whole so my guests will find nice Cherry ‘nuggets’ in the cake. A throwback to my childhood, I guess. I like to use both red and Green ones!
Try soaking dried Fruits (Raisins, Currents, etc.) in Brandy (or whatever spirit you want to use in the Cake and as a drizzle during aging) overnight, covered in the fridge, before mixing up the Fruit. Drain off any liquid Brandy that’s still left in the morning and reserve for inclusion in the batter.
I usually make up a double batch of Fruit Cake and bake it evenly distributed between three 8 in. (20 cm) diameter round springform pans. This makes thinner cakes – about 2 in. (5 cm) tall – but they will bake more evenly and faster, and you will be spared some tricky cutting later, at serving time.
Finally… It’s good idea to get all your ingredients together before you start to mix the Cake so that the process will go smoothly and the batter, which contains the eggs, won’t sit out too long.
Okay… Now go!
Grease your pan(s) and line with baker’s Parchment Paper. This will ensure the Cakes come out cleanly and easily. Remember, there’s a lot of gooey, sugary stuff in them that could otherwise burn onto the bare pans and stick like old Billy-O. Make sure the paper liner on the sides of the pan extends at least an inch (2.5 cm) above the top of the pan’s rim.
If you are making a single batch and baking it as a single cake, it will be somewhat thicker than the Cakes from the double-batch, three-pan scenario. That’s okay. We’ll compensate by baking longer.
First… Preheat the oven!
Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C).
It’s easier to use a stand mixer than a hand mixer (or a big wooden spoon and elbow grease) when making the batter. It’s a pretty thick concoction.
Cream together thoroughly the Sugars and Butter in the mixer bowl using the paddle attachment on Very Low or ‘STIR’ speed. Add the Eggs one at a time pausing between each addition to fully incorporate each Egg. Add Brandy, Juice and Zest of the Citrus and mix well. Then fold in the Dried Almonds. You might want to do this by hand.
In a separate bowl, whisk together (easier than sifting!) Flour, Baking Powder and salt. Then stir into the Egg/Sugar/Butter mixture. When all ingredients are fully incorporated, add this batter mixture to the remaining ingredients – Fruits, Nuts, Peel, etc, which you have already combined in the largest bowl you own – and mix thoroughly until batter coats all ingredients and all ingredients are evenly distributed within the mixture.
Distribute the batter evenly between all pans you plan to use, scraping as much as you can out of the mixing bowl. This is important, as this recipe is something like 4/5 fruit and 1/5 batter! We don’t want the cakes to fall apart!
Bake at 325 F (160 C) for the first hour, then turn down the oven to 300 F. Bake for another 45 min., if making multiple thinner cakes, and start checking with a toothpick every 10 or 15 min. thereafter until the pick comes out clean. For thicker cakes, start checking at 1 hr. 15 min.
Allow the Cakes to cool completely before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap and storing in a cool. dry, dark place. Every week or two, bring them out, turn them upside down and sprinkle generously with Brandy, or the spirit of your choice. Re-wrap as before and put them back in storage to rest and become ultra-rich!
I know, it seems like a lot of work…
…But it’s really only an hour shopping at the Bulk Store and another hour or so mixing it all up. I was dubious the first time I made my own fruitcakes, but I was quickly converted! Now, making the Holiday Fruitcake as soon as the dust settles from Thanksgiving is as much a tradition in my house as the Holidays, themselves.
~ Maggie J.