Fruitcake Date

Sunday, Nov. 4: Day 17 of my fruitcake fruit bath. I could let my "mash" keep going, but when I popped open the jar and nearly passed out from the fumes, I knew it was time to put a halt to the booze biz and start making cake.

In preparation for the batter step, I consulted two resources for ingredient ideas as well as technique: Nigella Lawson's "How to Be a Domestic Goddess" and "Caribbean Recipes Old & New" from my friend and Barbados chef LaurelAnn Morley.


Fruitcake, out of the oven, ready for a few weeks of dark storage. (Kim O'Donnel)


Because this was my maiden fruitcake journey, I'll admit I was a little nervous, but what helped was a deep cleansing breath and gathering and measuring all of the ingredients (mise en place) from get-go.

Morley's recipe, below, calls for "browning," a cooked caramel-colored syrup found in many Caribbean baking recipes and an extra little project that needs to be completed before embarking on the batter. If you have neither the interest nor the time, I might suggest maple syrup with a small amount of molasses, but the key here is color, viscosity and a not-too-sweet flavor.

Before you get started, check the cabinets for a cake pan that's deep enough -- at least three inches -- possibilities include a deep cake pan, tube pan, loaf pan or, like I did, a springform pan. You also want to make sure you've got either wax paper or parchment to line the baking pan, which is important for both containing the batter but also for steaming (and yielding a soft texture) after the cake comes out of the oven.

The other piece to note is baking time. You need to block out an entire afternoon for this project, as the cake bakes at a low temperature of 250 degrees, for at least 2 1/2 hours.

And finally, you'll need to have on hand a storage container for the cake once it's cooled, as it benefits from a few weeks of dark storage before serving. When I realized I had nothing large enough to store my cake, I left the timer in Mister Mighty Appetite's care and dashed out to buy a tin.

A taste of the uncooked batter revealed plenty of spice, fruit and a healthy (but not overwhelming) boozy flavor. And the house smelled like something out of Hansel & Gretel. Go on, give it a try!

I haven't decided whether or not to ice my cake, so stay tuned. And as always, weigh in with your comments and suggestions if you're an old dog at these fruitcake tricks.

Recipe below the jump; it assumes you've got macerated fruit ready for baking action, and my notes are in parentheses.

Fruitcake Batter
Adapted from "Caribbean Recipes Old & New"

Ingredients
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (I used equal amounts Earth Balance vegan shortening instead)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I reduced it to 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I reduced it to ¼ teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
At least 2 cups of dried and/or candied fruit that has been macerating for a few weeks
2 1/2 teaspoons each lemon extract and almond extract (I reduced amounts to 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 -1/2 cup "browning" (recipe below)
1/2 cup rum or brandy

Method
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch square or 10-inch round deep cake pan (at least three inches), by lining with two layers of waxed or parchment paper, greasing both layers (I used oil spray).

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (using an electric mixer, standing mixer or food processor). Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.

In medium bowl, sift flour and baking powder, and combine with spices.
By hand, fold fruit into creamed egg mixture, alternatively with flour/spices. Add extracts and browning; batter should be a dairly dark brown color.

Place batter in prepared pan and cook until skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out clean, 2 ½ -3 ½ hours. Pierce top of cake with a skewer and pour booze over holes while still warm.

Allow to completely cool before unmolding, using waxed paper to pry out of pan.

Wrap cake well in foil and store either in an airtight plastic container with a lid or a tin. You may store for up to three weeks before eating.

Cake may be eaten plain or covered with marzipan and/or royal icing or fondant.


Browning

Ingredeints
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

Method

In a shallow, heavy saucepan (a cast iron skillet will do nicely), heat oil and sugar over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook, without stirring, for another minute, until sugar becomes a very dark brown color -- but do not allow to burn. The entire process should take about eight minutes. Remove pan from heat, and slowly add water in a thin stream. This extremely hot mixture will bubble and splatter. When splattering stops, stir and cool. Mixture may be stored in an airtight plastic container.

The end result will be a thick, dark (but not black) liquid, like syrup.

Fruitcake Batter
Adapted from "Caribbean Recipes Old & New"

Ingredients
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (I used equal amounts Earth Balance vegan shortening instead)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (I reduced it to 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I reduced it to ¼ teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
At least 2 cups of dried and/or candied fruit that has been macerating for a few weeks
2 1/2 teaspoons each lemon extract and almond extract (I reduced amounts to 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 -1/2 cup "browning" (recipe below)
1/2 cup rum or brandy

Method
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch square or 10-inch round deep cake pan (at least three inches), by lining with two layers of waxed or parchment paper, greasing both layers (I used oil spray).

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (using an electric mixer, standing mixer or food processor). Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.

In medium bowl, sift flour and baking powder, and combine with spices.
By hand, fold fruit into creamed egg mixture, alternatively with flour/spices. Add extracts and browning; batter should be a dairly dark brown color.

Place batter in prepared pan and cook until skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out clean, 2 ½ -3 ½ hours. Pierce top of cake with a skewer and pour booze over holes while still warm.

Allow to completely cool before unmolding, using waxed paper to pry out of pan.

Wrap cake well in foil and store either in an airtight plastic container with a lid or a tin. You may store for up to three weeks before eating.

Cake may be eaten plain or covered with marzipan and/or royal icing or fondant.


Browning

Ingredeints
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup water

Method

In a shallow, heavy saucepan (a cast iron skillet will do nicely), heat oil and sugar over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook, without stirring, for another minute, until sugar becomes a very dark brown color -- but do not allow to burn. The entire process should take about eight minutes. Remove pan from heat, and slowly add water in a thin stream. This extremely hot mixture will bubble and splatter. When splattering stops, stir and cool. Mixture may be stored in an airtight plastic container.

The end result will be a thick, dark (but not black) liquid, like syrup.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 5, 2007; 9:24 AM ET Baking , Winter Holidays
Previous: Kim Cooks Up a Book | Next: A Baguette Breakthrough

Comments

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So, I assume that the fruit is drained of any unabsorbed liquid before using here - do you have any suggestions for using the leftover liquor? Could this be used (once strained of any solids) as the liquor to be poured over the cake?

This is fun stuff. I can't wait to get to this next step.

Posted by: Under my Desk | November 5, 2007 12:14 PM

Under: Actually, you can add liquid. I had very little. Yes, why not pour it over the cake when done...good idea. Keep me posted on your fruitcake adventures...

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 5, 2007 12:26 PM

I am so interested in learning more about your results, I haven't the time this year to play along. I have very fond memories of truly yummy fruit cakes my grandmother made. I remember the tins lined up on the attic stairs with cakes marinating in them. Wishing you the best in this endeavour.

Posted by: late to the party | November 5, 2007 12:35 PM

Is it too late to start soaking the fruit? How long does the cake need to sit, once baked?

Posted by: lunch break | November 5, 2007 12:47 PM

Late: I will most def. keep you posted on the final results.

Lunch: Never too late. You can even do a one-week soak. Cake can sit for as little as one week, but since it's early November, you got plenty of time.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | November 5, 2007 1:10 PM

For those of us with kids in the house or a reason to not want alcohol, is there anything else we could soak the fruit in?

Posted by: rmh | November 5, 2007 2:35 PM

Thanks Kim - this is fun stuff.

Another question, this time for the browning:

In the past, I've experimented with no-processed-sugar baking. One of the cornerstones of this type of baking was to use reduced fruit-juice concentrate to replace sugar in recipes. I've kind of gone away from that, but I was wondering if the fruityness would actually be beneficial here for the browning. I was thinking it might enhance the fruit flavors a bit. What do you think?

Posted by: Under my Desk | November 5, 2007 3:08 PM

The fruitcake which my grandmother always made is a bit different and loved by folks who are not fruitcake eaters.
Mama Barnett's Fruitcake
1 lb. best butter at room temperature
2 1/2 c. sugar
6 eggs
3 oz. lemon extract
4 c. AP flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. red candied cherries. chopped
1/4 lb. green candied pineapple, chopped
1/4 lb. white raisins
4 c. chopped pecans, lightly toasted

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add lemon extract. Sift flour and salt together. Add slowly to creamed mixture.
Toss fruit with a little flour and add to batter. Stir in pecans. Bake in 300 degree oven in tube or loaf pan, or in liners in mini-muffin tins. Baking times vary with ovens, pans, but cakes are done when they are lightly browned at edges.
Seal in cake tins with liquor soaked cheesecloth(optional).

Posted by: marthab | November 5, 2007 3:14 PM

Kim,

If your cake comes out well, you won't need the icing. I grew up on one of the best fruitcakes. My dad made them each year for relatives, friends, and co-workers. He made special ones for mee and my sister. It was mostly nuts as we didn't like the little green and red rubber stoppers. Ooops, I meant glace. The cakes would be a little sticky and oh so good. His was so good I never learned how to make them myself.

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | November 5, 2007 3:39 PM

My grandmother used to make fruitcakes to give as Christmas gifts. Her cakes were very dark and heavy -- actually you could use them for an anchor. I got her baking pan after she died. It has a few dents in the bottom, but still serviceable. Being a good Methodist woman she would NOT, ever, step foot into a liquor store to buy the soaking liquor. Instead, she'd send Grandad, who would offer very enthusiastically to get it for. Sometimes he'd have to make several trips to get that booze because it would disappear on the way home.

Posted by: Fruit Cake Fan | November 5, 2007 3:52 PM

Have just had a piece. Won't be driving any time soon...

Posted by: Mr. MA | November 17, 2007 10:59 PM

Thank you so much for your inspirational fruitcake journey, which has allowed me to make one for my family for the first time. It wasn't as scary as I had thought it might be.

So now that this bad boy is baked, and I put in a whole lot of rum/brandy mix, do I still need to add brandy over the next few weeks?

Posted by: Karen | November 25, 2007 2:42 PM

I want to eat my fruitcake now! How long must we wait?

Posted by: Cici | November 25, 2007 2:49 PM

Help! I baked my fruitcake and let it cool. WHen I tried to take it out of pan to put in silverfoil, it started to fall apart. Is it too soft? What do I do?

Posted by: Help | November 25, 2007 3:57 PM

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