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 father’s famous fruitcake recipe? Of course not. He still won’t give it to me. But this 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. Store in a cool place, preferably a cool basement, but a refrigerator will also do. Every 2-3 days (at least for the first ten days or so) inspect the loaves. Check for dryness and spritz with booze as needed. Hey, it’s medicinal. Cure the fruitcakes for a minimum of two weeks, and up to several months, over which time the flavors will meld into marvelousness.

4 thoughts on “Old School Fruitcake”

  1. Quick question: I have anise rum (from Puerto Rico) — is using that in place of regular rum a terrible idea?

    Quick question number two: could I mix half regular rum, half brandy? (My liquor supply is running low, obvs.)

    1. Hey Jennifer!

      Anise (licorice) flavor is probably too strong for fruitcake, or that’s my thinking at least. As far as mixing rum and brandy, I don’t see that as any big problem. One is a whiskey made of sugar, the other a whiskey made of grapes. I think they’ll get along fine.

      Good luck with the fruitcake!

      – Joe

      1. Not to pester you with questions or anything, but….

        First: I ran to the liquor store and bought rum. Decided not to risk playing around with these expensive ingredients.

        Second: The cakes look and smell divine. I am soooo excited. I just may have FINALLY found a fruitcake recipe I like!

        Third: I do not have cheesecloth so I cut up a cotton cloth and wrapped the loaves in that, and then in foil, and stuck them in the fridge. How important is the cheesecloth, or any cloth for that matter? Could I just wrap them in the foil?

        Fourth: when you brush on the rum, do you do it on all sides and bottom, or just on the top?

        1. Yay Jennifer! Way to go! So glad things are going so well. A nice clean cotton cloth is fine, the fabric is there for moisture retention, so keep it on there.

          Regarding the rum, you can just sprinkle it on the top. It’ll settle to the bottom fairly quickly, so turn the loaves every few days to ensure even absorption.

          Again…way to go!

          – Joe

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