Without even looking at the calendar I knew that Christmas was around the corner when I saw my mother gathering supplies for her famous FRUITCAKES. She made them eight to ten weeks before CHRISTMAS when there was plenty of time to brush the loaves with bourbon or rum so the flavors would combine and mellow. She made several different recipes that we all loved, some very dark with a high fruit to cake ratio, but there was one in particular that I remember, a rich yellow cake batter filled with nontraditional fruits, and not too spicy so we could taste the delicate flavor of the cake and fruits. I looked through all of my mom’s files and couldn’t find the recipe , but a search on the internet took me to KING ARTHUR FLOUR’S website and I found a recipe close to what I was looking for.
I have a good supply of dried fruits that I use in the trail mix that I sell at my Farmers’ Market so I replaced some of the fruit called for in KA’s recipe with my own combination. A total of 6-3/4 cups of chopped dried fruit in listed in the recipe and I used a combination of dried lemon and orange peel, cantaloupe, mango, kiwi, cranberries, golden raisins and cherries. This medley produces cakes with a light, tropical flavor and jewel-like color. I don’t enjoy biting into large pieces of fruit so I chopped everything into 1/3 to 1/2 inch pieces, then let the fruit macerate overnight in rum. By the next day the fruit has absorbed most of the liquid.
The ratio of batter to fruit is about 50-50. I also added 2 cups of chopped pecans to the batter. I considered using hazelnuts but pecans sounded better with the tropical fruits. The FIORI DI SICILIA called for in the recipe is available on King Arthur’s website. It is a combination of citrus and vanilla with a pleasingly floral aroma and is a wonderful flavor enhancement to so many recipes. Pure vanilla extract can be substituted with excellent results.
This recipe makes the perfect amount to fill six 3-1/2″x5″ mini loaf pans. To ensure the cakes don’t stick I use a little pan spray and line the pans with pieces of parchment. The cake without nuts on the lower left is for my oldest daughter who, for some mysterious reason, doesn’t like nuts in desserts. She sure didn’t get that from me! I just scooped out enough batter for one pan before I added the pecans.
Here they are, the baked cakes waiting to be brushed with rum, wrapped well and refrigerated for the next month. I’ll give them a little rum bath once a week until Thanksgiving and then we will take a look at how the cakes hold together, how well they slice and, most importantly, how they taste. I’m posting this holiday recipe now because the cakes need to mellow for a month and you need to make them now of you want them for the holidays. Won’t these little cakes make lovely gifts. A slice or two with a cup of tea will always remind me of my mother.
- 2 cups raisins: golden, jumbo, or your favorite type of raisins
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup dried apricots, chopped
- 1 cup candied lemon peel
- 1¾ cups candied red cherries
- ¾ cup brandy, rum, or whiskey; or apple juice, plus extra to brush over the cakes when they come out of the oven
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1¾ cups sugar
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia, optional
- 5 large eggs
- 3¾ cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup milk
- 2 cups diced pecans or walnuts, optional
- To prepare the fruit: Combine the dried fruit (except for the candied cherries) with liquid in a bowl. Cover and let the mixture steep overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease the loaf pans of your choice: two 8½” x 4½” loaf pans OR five 7″ wooden bakers OR six 7″ paper bake & give pans.
- To prepare the cake: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, corn syrup, baking powder, salt, and flavors.
- Beat in the eggs one at time.
- Stir in the flour alternately with the milk.
- Add the undrained fruit, the candied cherries (save a few for garnish if you like), and the nuts and combine well.
- Spoon the batter into the lightly greased baking pans, filling them three-quarters full.
- Bake the cakes for 50 to 80 minutes, depending on the size of the pans; smaller pans will bake for the shorter length of time. When done, the cakes will be a light golden brown all over, and a cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean.
- Remove the cakes from the oven. Brush with brandy or the liquor of your choice while warm.
- When completely cooled, wrap well and let rest at least 24 hours (or for up to a month, brushing with liquor or flavored syrup weekly), before serving.
I had several questions about this recipe, such as should the cakes be refrigerated after baking, so I called the King Arthur hotline. They agreed that they can be refrigerated but some people leave the at room temperature. I prefer the refrigerated approach. After all this work I don’t want any chance of spoilage. I have called the KA hotline many times and they have the answer to just about any baking question you could have. Don’t forget about this valuable resource if you need a little baking help.