Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fruitcake: Doorstop or Holiday Treat

This is a little late for this Christmas, but who says fruitcake is only for Christmas.  After all, those who can restrain themselves will eat a fruitcake over a week or more.  To those who can’t, and several relatives have demolished one of my fruitcakes in a single sitting, I hope you don’t overdose on the sugar.

For the last two or so years that I made fruitcake, I ordered all the fruit and nuts from, now simply

Originally published in the Reader Weekly of Duluth, 2005-12-08.

Are you a fruitcake conservative or a fruitcake liberal?  A fruitcake conservative has had one bad fruitcake or had some authority figure say that fruitcake is bad and so won’t even try any fruitcake.  A fruitcake liberal may or may not have had any bad fruitcake but is willing to try more fruitcakes looking for better fruitcakes or a diversity of fruitcakes.

In keeping with being a party of one, I think my fruitcake is very good and there may be some other good fruitcakes somewhere.  I can say that many people have asked for my fruitcake and look forward to having another each year.

My fruitcake isn’t strictly “my” fruitcake.  It is based on a recipe my mother gave us years ago.  Her recipe in turn was based on a Mrs. Lamberth’s.  We kept my mother’s hand-written recipe in a cookbook and the cookbook disappeared.  Fortunately, I had the ingredient list on a computer and was able to reconstruct it.

Before you start, be sure you have a 12-qt bowl or pan for mixing the fruit and nuts and an 8-qt mixer bowl for the batter.  You will want an extra large spatula/mixing spoon.  I broke a large wooden spoon one year.  You will need an electric mixer, and if your hands tire easily, you’ll want a stand-alone mixer.  Some of the other equipment needs will become apparent as you read on.

In the 12-qt. bowl mix

1-½ lbs. seedless raisins

1 lb.
golden raisins

½ lb.
candied citron

½ lb. black walnuts

½ lb. English walnuts (also just called walnuts)

Make sure all the clumps of raisins and citron are separated.

If not already cut in half, cut in half

½ lb. candied red cherries (also called glazed cherries) 

Set aside 14 red cherry halves for decorating the cake tops.  Add the remainder to the fruit-nut mix.  Repeat with

½ lb. candied green cherries 

Cut into wedges

1 lb.
candied pineapple 

If the pineapple rings or wedges are more than 3/8 inch thick, split them.  Set aside 28 pineapple wedges for the cake tops.  Add the remainder to the fruit-nut mix.


1 lb.
pecan halves 

select 28 pecans for the cake tops.  Break the remainder into smaller pieces and add to the mix.

Grate the rind of

2 oranges and 2 lemons

and add to the mix.

Stir the mix to distribute the fruit and nuts evenly.  Sift

2 cups flour

over the mix, a small amount at a time, stirring the flour into the mix as you go.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the exact amount of each ingredient.  I think I put in two few pecans and too many walnuts in my first batch this year.

For the batter, start by whipping

½ lb.
butter (two sticks)

in the 8-qt. bowl until it peaks and stays in one piece.  Add

2 cups
brown sugar

and beat until the mixture is smooth.  Add

7 eggs

and beat until the mixture is consistent.  Sift together into the mixture

2-½ cup flour

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (Tbsp means tablespoon)

1 tsp salt (tsp means teaspoon)

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp baking powder (which I forgot one year)

½ tsp baking soda

Sift the dry ingredients a bit at a time and mix into the batter.  You’ll get some sense as to how much can be mixed in without undue clumping.

Add directly to the batter or in another bowl

1 cup cherry jelly, cherry conserves, or currant jelly

½ cup cherry juice (enjoy the remainder, it comes in 46-oz. cans)

¾ cup dark molasses (now you will understand “slow as molasses”)

½ cup red wine (you might use the red wine to “rinse” the molasses cup)

1-½ oz.
brandy (and maybe 1-1/2 oz. into you)

2 tsp vanilla

½ cup pie cherries (mash these well)

Mix each ingredient or the mix of liquids thoroughly until the batter is smooth (except for lumps of pie cherries).

Add the batter to the fruit-nut mix and blend thoroughly.  Now you’ll know why I said you should have an extra large spatula or spoon.  Be sure to get all the fruit and flour that “hides” in the bottom, especially the center or the edge.

Grease with butter 14 “baby loaf” pans.  These are about 3x5 inches and available in packs of five at most supermarkets.  Don't wait until the last minute to buy.  You and I aren’t the only home bakers in town.

Spoon the cake mixture into each pan up to about an inch from the top.  You might think you don't have enough pans at first, and then suddenly you find you have to fill the last pan from the others.

Bake for two hours at 250° F.  At 1-1/2 hours poke about six holes in each cake with a toothpick and pour

1 Tbsp.
dark rum

on each.  Put the set-aside fruit and nuts on each and then dribble

corn syrup

on the tops.  Return to the oven.  They are ready when you poke them with a toothpick and it comes out with almost no dough stuck to it.

Be forewarned, your fruitcake liberal friends and relatives are going to expect this every year.