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Make it Yourself: Fruitcake

Two years ago, my aunt brought fruitcake to our holiday celebration.  I can't say I had ever tried fruitcake before, but this was delicious!  Juicy, rich, alcoholic, and sweetened by real fruit not sugar or fluorescent candied stuff -  what could be wrong?

Last year, I made fruitcake myself.  I split the batter between one large and two small loaf pans.  Because of my unpredictable oven, the smaller ones burned on the bottom.  I was disappointed but planned to enjoy the larger loaf even more.

Sometime in the brandy basting process, the dastardly Food Hound struck again.  That's right, Devie consumed the entire large loaf.  A pound or more of dry fruit, alcohol, butter, all of it.  AGHHH!!!!  I hoped she would die of overeating but it never seems to bother her.

This year I am determined to bake and eat the fruitcake.  This year's attempt is currently aging in an upper cabinet. (Don't you wish you had opposable thumbs now, Devie?!)

I use a slightly modified version of Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake recipe, below.    I dare you to make it yourself - no one re-gifts this cake!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dried fruit (Choose your favorites. This year, I used golden raisins, cranberries, apricots, and a berry mix from Trader Joe's.)
  • Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
  • Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped
  • 1 cup bourbon (gold rum is traditional and called for in Alton's recipe but bourbon is my favorite)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
  • 1 cup unfiltered apple juice
  • 4 whole cloves, ground
  • 6 allspice berries, ground (if you are local and want some of these I have plenty to share)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, broken (Alton's recipe calls for pecans)
  • Brandy for basting and/or spritzing

Directions

Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add bourbon and macerate overnight.

Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)

you could stop right here and have a delicious topping for ice cream

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts. Spoon into a 10-inch stoneware loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it's done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet.  Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.

When cake is completely cooled, seal in plastic wrap or a tight sealing, food safe container.  Store far away from evil dogs.

Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, baste with more brandy. The cake's flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks.