Old School Fruitcake

You know you’ve got hold of a good, solid traditional fruitcake recipe when the ingredients list is as long as your arm. These recipes date back hundreds of years in America, but their pedigree goes back to at least the High Middle Ages, when European bakers emptied their pantries of every last good thing they could possibly think of, and put them all into one giant, dense, dark cake: candies, fruits, sweeteners and spices of all kinds. That, my friends, is when you knew it was a party. Is this my old man’s famous fruitcake recipe? Of course not, I don’t even know it. This, however, is a very close match:

Day one:

2 cups golden raisins
2 cups currants
2 cups dried apricot halves
2 cups dried figs, halved
2 cups pitted dates
4 cups chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped pecans
Zest of 3 oranges
Zest of 3 lemons
1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 cup molasses
2 cups brandy (or rum)
1/2 cup orange juice

Combine all the dried fruits, nuts, zest ginger and spices in a large bowl (my father uses a roasting pan). Toss well to mix. Add molasses, brandy (or rum) and OJ and mix well. Cover the mixture and let it macerate at room temperature overnight.

Day two:

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 lb butter, softened
3 cups dark brown sugar
8 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 275. Spray the inside of four 9″x5″x3″ loaf pans with nonstick spray and line with wax paper or parchment. Spray again with cooking spray

Whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl. Separately, cream the butter with the brown sugar until light in color. Add eggs one or two at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture and beat until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter over the fruit and mix well. Divide the mixture among the pans and bake for 2 hours. They’re done when a toothpick or sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely on a rack, dribble more brandy (or rum) on top (or spritz with a spray bottle) then wrap each individual loaf, first in cheese cloth, then in foil. Every 2-3 days inspect the loaves. Check for dryness and spritz with booze as needed (hey, it’s medicinal). Do this for a minimum of two weeks, over which time the cake’s flavor with develop enormously.

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