Here's my rendition of a classic holiday gift that you may wish to keep for yourself. Choose the highest-quality dried and/or glazed whole fruits from gourmet markets instead of the sticky-sweet candied ones or diced pieces sold in most supermarkets. Oil your kitchen scissors to snip sticky fruits. Substitute bourbon, cognac, dark rum, or orange-flavored liqueur for the brandy; if desired. Although this cake is good the day after baking, it benefits from storage, so you may wish to make it several weeks or months before serving or giving. Glaze the cake, if desired, up to 2 days before serving or giving. To create the traditional English Christmas cake, omit the optional glaze. Roll out high-quality marzipan (available in cake-decorating stores and some supermarkets) into sheets and completely encases the top and sides of the cake, then decorate with Royal Icing.
- 4 cups coarsely chopped or snipped high-quality mixed dried and/or glazed fruits such as apricots, cherries, citron, dates, and pineapple
- 2 cups golden raisins
- 2 cups dried currants and/or cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped drained preserved ginger in syrup or crystallized ginger
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons grated or minced fresh orange zest
- 2 tablespoons grated or minced fresh lemon Zest
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 cup brandy for soaking fruit
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 5 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup light molasses
- 4 cups coarsely chopped mixed nuts such as hazelnuts (fipounderts), pecans and walnuts
- Brandy for soaking cakes (optional)
Companion recipe: Royal Icing
To make the fruitcake, a day or two before baking the cake, combine the mixed dried and/or glazed fruits, raisins, currants and/or cranberries, ginger, orange and lemon juices and zest's, vanilla and almond extracts, and 1 cup brandy in a large bowl, mix well. Cover and set aside at room temperature; stir occasionally.
On baking day, position racks so that the cakes will cook in the middle of an oven and preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Grease and line two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and cloves together into a strainer or sifter and sift into a bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy, about 45 seconds. With the mixer still running, slowly add the sugar, then stop the mixer and scrape the mixture that clings to the sides of the bowl into the center. Continue beating at medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the eggs and beat well; stop at least once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the molasses and the fruit mixture and blend well.
Using the mixer on low speed or a rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture, then fold in the nuts.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the surfaces with a rubber spatula; the pans will be almost full. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean, about 2 hours.
Remove the pans to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the wire rack to cool completely, top sides up.
If you wish to soak the cakes with brandy over low heat; do not bring to boil. Poke the tops of the cakes all over the wooden skewer, then brush generously with the warm brandy.
Wrap the cakes tightly in plastic wrap and store in a cool place for at least 2 days or, preferably, for up to several weeks before serving. For indefinite storage, wrap the cakes in cheesecloth that has been soaked in brandy, then wrap in plastic and place in an airtight container or wrap tightly in aluminum foil; unwrap the cakes and sprinkle with additional brandy every 3 months, then rewrap tightly.
Recipe reprinted by permission of Chronicle. All rights reserved.
nutrition information per serving
593 calories; 26g total fat; 78mg cholesterol; 338mg sodium; 84g carbohydrates; 6g fiber; 8g protein
These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.
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