Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book 109: An Edible Christmas | Fruitcake

 by Irena Chalmers

I really was hoping to get this posted before the holidays. The one thing about fruitcakes, you cannot make them on the spur of the moment. They attain their best flavor from a two weeks rest (in which you spritz the cake with brandy every few days). I just kept putting it off, until now; a bit late for the holidays, but hey, where is it written that says you can't serve fruitcake the rest of the year?

When my mother passed away two years ago, my sister and I were reminiscing about family.  My dad's mom came up in conversation, and we got to thinking of her fruitcake; she made the best fruitcake, and the most delicious cookies - they were thin, crisp, sugar-like cookies with a walnut half, pressed in the middle. We were hoping to get the recipe from my uncle. Unfortunately he did not have it. He checked with my aunt (it was a recipe from her home economics class from high school), and she did not have it either.

Sad to say, the recipe is long lost; unless anyone out there reading this went to Acalanes High School in Lafayette, CA - mid to late forties to early fifties, and happened to have saved the recipe booklet from their home economics class..

So I went on a quest to find a fruitcake recipe that mimicked my grandmother's. I came across one by Alton Brown (Food Network) that uses dried fruit that sounded good, it was tempting, but I knew that would not be like grandma's. I'm sure she used those.. what I think are nasty looking.. the colored, candied fruits (my sister does not recall the candied fruit) you see in the produce section around Christmastime. While I was searching for another recipe from this book, I flipped the page, and whoala, "The Best Fruit Cake". It looked very much like I remember my grandmother's cake to be, and the headline read, "Not one person will make a fruitcake joke when they taste this one - the world's best!" And we have all heard the fruitcake jokes, haven't we? 

Once the cake is baked, it is wrapped in foil and stored in the refrigerator. When I unwrapped the cake a week or so later, the scent hit me - ohhh - this is it, though it was not as darkly colored as I remember, and it did not taste like grandma's. This recipe calls for an apple brandy, which I'm sure she did not use. She may have used regular brandy, or maybe even bourbon or rum, which would change up the flavor I'm sure, maybe even the color. This recipe also does not call for you to spritz it with additional liquour - however, I did.  

It's too bad that fruitcake gets such a bad rap. This was actually quite tasty, though not like what I recall my grandmother's tasting like (it has been a very long time - and our tastes do change over the years - and it has been many). Who knows, I may never find the fruitcake recipe I recall from my childhood, but at least I'll have the memories.

The recipe calls for golden and dark raisins. I had a pouch of mixed jumbo raisins (a "fancy" mix of golden and red flame grapes) in the pantry I wanted to use up and used those. I could not find Australian (or any other) glacé apricots, so I subbed dried apricots. The other items above include almonds, walnuts, candied pineapple, glacé cherries, and candied lemon rinds.

I halved the recipe, and it made one regular size loaf and two mini loaves.

Is this not a beautiful fruitcake?

By the way, this book also has a recipe for Cinnamon Crisps. They look extremely similar to grandma's cookies I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Keeping my fingers crossed.  ;)

The Best Fruit Cake
Makes 3 8x4x3-inch cakes

2 cups golden raisins
2 cups dark raisins
2 cups glacé cherries, left whole
1 cup coarsely chopped candied pineapple rings
1¾ cups chopped glacé citrus rinds
2 cups chopped Australian glacé apricots (about 1 pound)
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup Brazil nuts or walnuts, very finely chopped
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups packed dark-brown sugar
8 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup apple brandy, divided
Light corn syrup, for brushing
Candied whole fruits, crystallized ginger, and whole nuts, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter and flour three 8x4x3-inch cake pans.

Toss all the fruits and nuts with 1 cup of the flour. (A dishwashing bowl is good for this.) Sift the remaining flour with the salt, baking soda, and spices.

Using a hand-held electric mixer set at high speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until light in texture, about 2 minutes. At low speed, beat in the eggs in thirds alternately with the sifted flour mixture. Stir in the vanilla, chocolate, and apple brandy. Fold this mixture into the floured fruits and nuts. Transfer the cake mixture to the prepared pans and cover with oiled aluminum foil. Bake in the preheated oven for 1¼ hours, then remove the foil and continue cooking for an additional 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Leave the cakes to cool in their pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Wrap the cakes tightly in foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. To decorate, brush the cake’s surface with corn syrup. Make an attractive pattern with additional crystallized fruits and nuts, and tie a red ribbon around the sides.

An Edible Christmas/Irena Chalmers


  1. I would love everything except the maraschino cherries! Dried sweetened cherries, now they would be good. :) It's a beautiful fruitcake, for sure. I have my mom's Norwegian fruitcake recipe, but failed to make it this Christmas. It's not as sweet as traditional fruitcakes, but has candied ginger, candied pineapple, citron, and a lot of nuts.

  2. I'm not a huge fruitcake fan but this is really pretty, maybe I'd change my mind if I tasted yours :)

  3. We have an aunt in the family that makes a fruitcake each year that everyone goes crazy for. She finally gave up the ingredient list, but she won't tell how she makes it :-)

  4. They're in the oven. Can't wait to see how they turn out. Last year's variety wasn't quite done in the middle, so I stuffed a digital thermometer in one of these and when it hits 200º it will alert me.


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