I am not a fruitcake hater. I’ve loved the stuff since eating the dense loaves as a child. I even converted Tim; well, my Aunt Helen did. One year she sent a HUGE angel food cake pan sized fruitcake to us for Christmas. It weighed easily over 20 lbs. HUGE. We nicked off a slice or two, and sat it on the bottom shelf of the fridge for a few weeks, all the while Tim cracking jokes about it. Do you know what happens to fruitcake when it sits around? It gets awesome. Better and better with each month that goes by. By February, we were hooked on it. For weeks we would shave off wafer thin slices (you can’t eat much fruitcake at a sitting, trust me) and snack on them. It was like an energy bar, soaked in booze. A very good thing. I think it lasted us until about June, even with constant eating. I told you, it was massive. We missed it when it was gone.
The following Christmas season, I started thinking of putting up my own fruitcakes. Both to return the favor to Aunt Helen, and to have some high energy snacking available for when our little Miles came along. Not being a huge fan of the glaceed fruits, I was looking for something more natural. Lots of internet searches unearthed this recipe from a very old Gourmet magazine post (It’s not even on their epicurious site). Fruitcake haters’ fruitcake. And apparently fruitcake lovers’ as well. I like this recipe because it is very natural and adaptable. Use whatever dried fruits and nuts you have; take this opportunity to clean off your shelves for all the ingredients you need for closer-to-the-holidays baking. I used a mix of apricots, dates, black raisins, golden raisins, and a sprinkle (just the ends of the bags, really) of figs, cherries and pineapple. For nuts, I had pecans, walnuts and a handful of pistachios. Instead of one mammoth cake, I made 10 mini-loaves, and plan to rest them in the fridge the next 8 weeks until perfect for snacking and gifting. By all my fruitcake loving friends.
Note: this makes A LOT of fruitcake. Pay attention where the measurements are in weights or measures. Its worth it to make the whole batch. It keeps literally forever, and as its a lot of work, you might as well get it out of the way and have extras. The fruitcake lover in your life will thank you.
Fruitcake Haters’ Fruitcake (from Gourmet)
- 4 pounds dried fruit, cut into raisin-sized pieces
- 2 pounds nuts, not necessarily chopped
- 4 cups (500g) flour
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp all spice
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 4 sticks (1 pound) butter, softened at room temp
- 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 10 eggs, at room temp
- 1 cup apricot nectar
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup orange flavored liquor (like Triple Sec or Cointreau)
- Get the largest bowls you can find. Preheat the oven to 250F. Butter and flour 10 mini loaf pans, or 4 regular loaf pans, or 2 massive angel food cake bundt pans.
- In the biggest bowl, combine the fruit and nuts. It takes time to chop all those fruits, and I recommend using a pair of kitchen shears for the larger ones. Knives tend to get gummed up.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder and salt. Add about half this mixture to the fruit and nuts and mix well until it coats everything.
- In a large bowl, using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream butter, sugar and honey for several minutes until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the remaining flour until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the nectar, cream and lemon juice. Use a spatula to fold this into the batter until incorporated.
- Pour the batter onto the fruit and nuts and mix until fully combined (takes some muscle and a couple minutes).
- Divide the batter among the loaf tins. This stuff does not rise much, so go right up to the top of the pan. Smooth the tops.
- Bake for about 2 hours for mini loaves, longer for others. Check with a toothpick for doneness. Rotate them around the oven halfway through.
- Remove from oven and cool in the tins.
- Now its time to add the booze. You will see them drink it up, but this is the right amount to add. Each loaf should get about 3 Tbsp of alcohol (you can mix the brandy and orange and add it slowly).
- Once completely cool and soaked for a few hours, remove each from the pan and double wrap in plastic wrap. Stack and stash in a dark corner of your fridge, or in your basement or garage if you are so lucky to live somewhere where you were actually glad to have the oven on for 2+ hours. Further wrap in a plastic bag and tie it shut if you are worried about something (or someone!) getting into these before Christmas.
- Wait 8 weeks. You really only have to wait a week, but you do have to wait. We knocked off a corner just to make sure we were on the right track (right…) and it was all crumbly. It needs time to get dense and hard. Then, let the fruitcake feast begin.