For the first 30+ years of my life, I did not like fruitcake. The thought of aged cake with glaceed fruits and almond paste that could be a year old or more was unfathomable. I was blissfully living a fruitcake-free existence when I realized that G loves it. I had no choice but to find a way to make this traditional cake palatable.
Fruitcake has now become a family favourite. This was even our wedding cake. It comes together easily (the year Emma was born, I managed to make it with her on one arm) and is filled with only things that are delicious even before they go into the cake. Putting them together fills the finished cake with an incredible depth of flavour and texture. Even after it’s a year old.
Last week, I asked G what he wanted to make sure we included in our Christmas festivities. Without hesitation, his answer was this fruitcake. Emma overheard our conversation and quickly interjected her request – the Emma-friendly version of our fruitcake which is brandy and nut-free. And so, we may not have snow for Christmas this year, but we’ll be having both fruitcakes.
5 cups mixed unsweetened dried fruit (tart cherries, coarsely chopped apricots, currants, golden raisins recommended)
2 cups of mixed unsalted nuts (pecans, almonds and walnuts recommended)
3/4 cup brandy
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
In a large bowl, combine the dried fruits and brandy. Let it all sit overnight, covered, remembering to stir the mixture occasionally. (Note: longer is fine. Just top up w/brandy as it gets absorbed by the dried fruit.)
Heat the oven to 350F. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast the nuts for 10-15 minutes, stirring about halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Once the fruits and nuts are ready, lightly grease a 9 1/2″ springform pan. Line it with a round of parchment and grease the paper as well. Place one rack in the bottom third of the oven and another rack in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to 300F. While the oven preheats, place a roasting pan about 1/2 full of warm water on the rack in the bottom third of the oven.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.
Separately, cream together the butter and the brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition. Beat any juices from the fruit into the batter.
Sprinkle about 1/3 cup of the flour mixture over the fruit and gently mix it in, coating the fruit. Stir the remaining flour mixture into the batter, a little at a time. Then add the fruit mixture and the nuts, stirring until the mixture is just combined. Spread the batter out evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 1 3/4 to 2 hours. When it’s ready it will be golden brown on top and a toothpick will come out clean when inserted in the centre.
Let cool on rack for 20 minutes and remove the cake from the pan and the parchment paper from the cake. Cool completely on rack.
Tips and Suggestions:
For the nut-free, child-friendly version, add 1 more cup of dried fruits in place of the nuts and substitute either pure-pressed apple or pulp-free orange juice for the brandy.
The brandied cake keeps incredibly well. Although you can eat it fresh, you can also age it. Poke holes on the top of the cake with a skewer and drizzle a few teaspoons of brandy over top (don’t soak the cake or make it mushy). Wrap the cake in brandy-soaked cheesecloth and then wrap the cheesecloth-enclosed cake in foil. Keep the cake in a cool dry place (the bottom back corner of your refrigerator works). You can repeat the brandy drizzle monthly. Bring the cake to room temperature before eating.