Fruitcakes make tasty holiday gifts
Many years ago when the Other Fisherman’s dad would drive back from visiting his brother in Florida he bought fruitcake in Georgia on his way home to Wisconsin. I first started making fruitcake for him when Uncle “Turkey” moved back to Wisconsin and Dad no longer made his annual fruitcake stop. Over the years family and friends have come to enjoy them. Dad is gone now, but I still bake them for a holiday treat for fortunate recipients. Plan on making them at least a month prior to Christmas so they can age and get a few applications of the liquor you select to use on them.
This year my southern-born friend Josie and I got together and baked up 25 in her kitchen. We had a great time and the house smelled so good.
* Start this process a day prior to when you will bake them.
8 ounces diced citron
8 ounces diced pineapple
8 ounces diced fruitcake mixed fruit
4 ounces whole red candied cherries
4 ounces whole green candied cherries
1 cup golden or dark raisins
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brandy or good bourbon
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup molasses
3 cups pecans mixed with 3 tablespoons flour
This batter is quite heavy, but a heavy-duty stand mixer can handle it. If you don’t have one, beat as much batter as you can with what you have and pour it into a big bowl to complete mixing stirring with a big spoon.
Mix the fruit in a large bowl with the orange juice and brandy. Stir gently and set aside to marinate for a few hours, even overnight.
Generously butter bottom and sides of two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and line them with parchment paper. Butter the paper thoroughly. You can use brown paper for this if you don’t have parchment paper.
I used miniature foil pans sprayed with cooking spray, as I make gifts of them.
Makes about 10.
Sift the flour with the spices twice. Add the baking powder and salt and sift again.
Put the butter into a large mixing bowl and cream until smooth. Add sugar; using an electric mixer, cream until light and fluffy. Beat the egg yolks slightly with a fork and then add them to the bowl. Mix the batter well before you start to add the flour and spice mixture. Stir the batter as you add the flour, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the flour is thoroughly incorporated, add the molasses and stir. Stir in the fruit, along with any soaking liquid left in the bowl. I like pecans in my fruitcake, if you do as well, add in 3 cups pecans you have tossed with about 3 tablespoons flour.
Put the egg whites in a stainless steel or glass bowl and beat with a clean beater to stiff peaks. Fold them into the batter thoroughly and then spoon the batter into the prepared pans. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let the batter sit overnight in a cool place to mellow.
On the next day, heat the oven to 250°. Place the fruitcake on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. After 1 1/2 hours, cover the pan with a piece of brown paper (do not use foil.)
When the cake has baked for 3 1/2 hours, test the with a toothpick or cake tester. If the tester comes out of the center of the cake clean, the cake is done. Leave the cake in the pan and set on wire rack to cool.
If you are using the miniature pans, baking time is reduced to 1 ½ hours.
When the cakes are completely cooled,
turn out of the pans, leaving the paper lining on the cake. Wrap the cakes in bourbon, brandy or rum soaked cheesecloth, then rewrap in foil.
If you used the miniature pans, leave cakes in pan, pour a few tablespoons of your choice of liquor directly onto the fruitcake, wrap in foil and set in a cool place.
Every week, open the foil and drizzle a small amount of bourbon, brandy or rum over the cakes. The liquor will keep the cake moist and flavorful and help preserve it as well.
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