I had to write down this recipe for a friend recently and decided that fruitcake is sufficiently Victorian that it could be shared here as well. I could lie and say that I’m posting it in April as a treat for my Antipodean friends heading into fall, but to be honest I just don’t want it knocking around in my Drafts folder until October.
Frankly, if you make the alcoholic version it’ll keep until next Christmas anyway.
Unlike the sad technicolor bricks that get called “fruitcake” by people pretending it isn’t a last-minute gift that they bought on the way to your house, this cake is rich, dense, moist, and bursting with flavor. It’s also a perfect way to use up dried fruit left over from other baking projects. I toss the dried cherries left over from these cookies, the dried figs that were part of a chocolate fondue, the dates from sticky toffee pudding, and all of the half-packages of raisins that seem to accumulate out of nowhere into the freezer until holiday baking time rolls around. Grocery stores also sell chopped candied citrus peel and/or “fruitcake mix” with radioactive cherries around Christmas; I frequently wait until after the holidays and buy it on clearance, then freeze it too; it’ll last practically forever. Then I gather up all of my dried fruit and divide it between these cookies and the fruitcake below. (As a bonus, knowing that you’ve got an eventual use for leftover dried fruit means that you’re more likely to try interesting-sounding recipes that use it.)
This makes one large fruitcake, serving 8-16 (it’s pretty rich, so closer to 16)
1/2 C butter, softened
1 C dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1/2 C molasses
2 C + 2 T all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp mace
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 C milk
4 C mixed dried fruit (I like to go heavy on the raisins and currants and include at least a little candied citrus peel)
1 C chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts are nice)
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter and flour a 10″ springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
In a small bowl combine 2 C flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
Cream the butter in a mixer on medium speed until light, then add the brown sugar and cream again until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in molasses. Add flour mixture and stir until almost combined, then add the milk and stir until combined.
Toss the fruit and nuts with the remaining 2 T of flour until coated, and fold into the batter until well mixed. Pour batter into springform pan and bake 60 – 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and pop the sides. When completely cool, peel the parchment paper off the bottom and store airtight for up to a week.
Optionally, you can “feed” the fruitcake with liquor: Once cool, wrap it in a couple of layers of cheesecloth. Sprinkle about 2 T of rum or brandy over the top of the fruitcake, then wrap tightly in foil and store in a cool place. Every few days, unwrap the foil, sprinkle another couple of T of alcohol on the other side of the cake (so if you sprinkled the top last time, turn it over and sprinkle the bottom) and then re-wrap. Repeat for at least a week, or until the cake is sitting in a corner, hiccupping and talking emotionally to the toaster. When doing the liquored-up version, I like to make the cake at least a month in advance; once well-soaked it’ll last practically forever.
Also optionally, although it makes for a tasty and festive presentation: Get a 7-oz tube of marzipan and a 24-oz package of fondant (both in the baking aisle of grocery stores or available at Amazon). Roll out the marzipan into a circle large enough to fit the top of the cake and place on top, then roll out the fondant into a circle large enough to cover the cake; tuck any ragged edges underneath.
For bonus points, you can make your own marzipan and/or fondant (either the “real” way or the marshmallow version).
A little slice of this eaten with coffee is a revelation.