I’ve decided to broach the subject of the dreaded Christmas fruitcake which I know is not all as popular as it was years ago. I’ll start by giving a brief history of the lowly fruitcake’s origins.
Fruit cake originated, it is believed, in ancient Rome in a much simpler form. It started to be called ‘fruitcake’ in the Middle Ages when spice, honey and preserved fruits were added to it. With the discovery of America and the sugars that were produced in the colonies and the abundance of fruits and nuts, the fruitcake began to come into it’s own. It was now possible to obtain inexpensive sweeteners and many different types of ingredients to add to the cakes. In the 1700’s nuts were often added to the fruitcake to celebrate good fortune and the abundant harvests. A great many different types of fruitcakes were produced, varying from light to dark, according to what type of fruits, flours, and nuts were used. Traditional fruitcake are soaked in liquor to flavor and preserve the cakes, with brandy and rum being most often used for soaking. Many fruitcake recipes have been handed down through generations of a family.
The following fruitcake recipe is at least seventy years old. It is up to you whether you want to further soak the cake with brandy by drizzling it slowly over the top until it is moistened:
1/2 lb. dates, chopped
1/2 lb. dried apricots- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied cherries- chopped
1/2 lb. red and green candied pineapple- chopped
1/2 lb. dark raisins
1/2 lb. walnuts – toasted and chopped
1/2 lb. pecans- chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup softened butter
1 orange, juice and grated rind
1 lemon, juice and grated rind
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons brandy
2 Tablespoons Curacao
2 Tablespoons dark rum
Measure out ingredients in advance for easier preparation.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Thoroughly grease two 8″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pans. Dredge the fruit and nuts with flour and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Sift the remaining flour with spices, baking soda and salt. Add to the creamed butter and sugar mixture alternating with adding the liquor, spices, and vanilla. Fold the floured fruit and nuts into the batter. Pour into prepared loaf pans – put the loaf pans into a large pan of hot water and bake for about 2-2 1/2 hours or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool ten minutes and gently remove cakes to a wire baking rack to further cool.
When cool, fruitcake can be further soaked in brandy or rum by drizzling liquor onto cake and letting it seep in to moisten.
Wrap cakes thoroughly in plastic wrap. They can be aged for several weeks for flavors to meld. Good served with cream cheese or butter.
HAPPY BAKING AND HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON.