Friday, December 13, 2013


No, wait, come back!

The fruitcake is so maligned in our society that I don't think I've ever had it.  I remember seeing one at Grandma Sophie's once, but I'm pretty sure it was store-bought.  If I had some, I was under twelve and have no recollection.

I went in search of a lighter recipe, as a way to ease myself into this subculture.  King Arthur Flour has one for a Golden Fruitcake which seems much less dense than I had imagined.  It beats the recipe in the Bible, which talks about the batter yield in pounds, as in a seven-pound loaf.

The original recipe calls for five eggs and makes a bit more product than I had in mind.  I scaled it down to three eggs, or 60% of the original.  It's a good thing I like math.  I rounded most of it so I don't need to bother anyone with "1/2 C plus 1 Tb plus 2 tsp of dried cranberries".  Just call it a heaping 1/2 cup and be done with it.  Oh, and I used candied ginger instead of lemon peel.  It seemed lighter and like it would add a brighter note to the finished product.  You can swap out any of these dried fruits for something you prefer.  This amount yielded three mini-loaves and a 6" round.  That's about a full loaf and a half.
There were more cherries on the round cake.  They sank in.
I didn't know that fruitcake was a long-term project.  "Quick-bread" refers to no yeast, but this is certainly not something you can make on a whim.  At the very least, the fruits have to be soaked overnight.  Because of the low baking temperature, it takes much longer to make this than, say a banana bread.  After baking, it should "age" over several days.  If it sits around longer than a week, it needs to be brushed with several tablespoons of rum or brandy.  The alcohol is a preservative.  These aged cakes are probably the heavy ones that everyone instinctively cringes against.  My goal was to eat or freeze all of them in under a week.

*1-1/4 C raisins (golden, dark, your choice.  I used mostly currants.)
1/2 C (heaping) dried cranberries
1/2 C (heaping) dried apricots, chopped
1/2 C (heaping) candied ginger, chopped
1 8 oz container candied red cherries
*1/2 C brandy (or apple juice), plus more for brushing
1/2 C (one stick) butter
1 C sugar
2 Tb corn syrup
1-1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 eggs
2-1/4 C flour
2/3 C milk
1-1/4 C walnuts (or pecans)

1.  The night before, combine all the fruits except the cherries.  Stir in brandy and let sit at room temperature.

2.  Prepare pans by greasing with shortening or using pan spray.  Preheat oven to 300º.

3.  In mixer, cream together butter, sugar, corn syrup, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Scrape down sides, then beat in eggs one at a time.  Beat again until soupy.

4.  Add flour and milk in alternating amounts, starting and ending with flour.  Try not to overbeat, or cake will develop air pockets.

5.  Pick through the nuts and save the prettiest ones for decoration.  Place the rest in a ziplock bag and whack with a rolling pin until bite-sized.  Add to batter.

6.  Add soaked fruit and most of cherries, saving some of the latter for decoration.  Stir until combined.

7.  Portion batter into pans 3/4 full.  Arrange reserved nuts and cherries.  Bake for about 50 minutes for mini loaves, 80 to 90 minutes for a full-sized loaf or cake.  You are looking for a light-brown cake, not the really dark kind that haunt nightmares.  Use the toothpick test for doneness.

8.  Cool in pans 5 minutes, then brush with a few tablespoons of brandy and let sit for 5 more minutes before turning out to cool completely.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then seal either in gift baggies or foil.  If freezing, always wrap in foil first to reduce freezer burn.  Can be kept at room temperature for a week before needing another brandy treatment.  Without alcohol, they must be refrigerated or frozen a couple of days later.  The cakes taste best if they can sit for at least 24 hours before serving.

Makes about 5 mini loaves, or one full loaf and a 6" round cake

Difficulty rating  :)

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