The Right Way To Make Really Good Fruitcake

by Norie L.
(Troupsburg, NY, USA)

Fruitcake: a word that can strike fear in the heart of even the most devoted holiday celebrant! I admit it: my family is one of the unheard groups that actually loves the stuff!

The world is full of comical stories of this often tasteless, leaden object, and how it has been known to travel the world in search of a home that wants to adopt it. Really, fruitcake CAN be a truly delectable treat. In our family, Mom's annual fruitcake was something to look forward to (with much eager drooling). It was dark, lucious, moist, densely crowded with nuts and candied fruits and raisins, wrapped in the richest imaginable spiced molasses cake, the top glossy and tangy from weeks of alcoholic bastings.

I remember it as an immense day-long project, with us kids recruited for sticky jobs like snipping dates, raisins and candied fruit bits with tiny scissors. To this day, I'm not sure whether it was a necessary part of the recipe or a way to keep the six of us occupied so Mom could bake, but I still do it! Back then, dates didn't arrive pre-chopped, and the taste of sugary dates on my fingertips is still a vivid pre-holiday memory.

In a large-ish saucepan, combine 1 cup sliced dates, 1 cup seedless raisins and/or currants (snipped in half), 2/3 cup butter, 1 1/4 cup brown sugar (packed), 1/4 cup dark molasses, and 1 1/2 cup hot brandy (or water). Boil gently for 3 minutes. Pour into a LARGE mixing bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Then beat in 2 eggs, and stir in 1 big container of candied fruits (snipped small as previously discussed), and 1 cup chopped nuts.

In another bowl, sift together 3 cups flour, sifted, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. baking soda, and 1 tsp baking powder. Add this dry mix gradually to the fruit mixture, beating after each addition. Pour the batter into a 9" greased tube pan. Bake in a very slow 275 degree oven for 3 hours. The fragrance will drive you crazy!

Cool the cake thoroughly before you remove it from the pan. (Do not invert it). It will be tempting to taste now, but the molasses and spice can be quite sharp at this point. Wrap the cake in a super-clean tea towel, and wrap again, very tightly in foil. Find an airtight tin big enough to hold the cake. Store it in a cool place 3 to 4 weeks to mellow and enrich the flavor. During those weeks, at least once a week, open the wrappings and drizzle a few Tablespoons of good fruity brandy, Amaretto, or whatever your favorite sweet liqueur might be, and brush it over the top thoroughly, and be sure to re-wrap tightly! (Who wants a funky moldy cake)? If you don't like the idea of alcohol, you can use orange juice, but you might want to let it ripen in the freezer.

Now this is one big cake, so you may want to cut it up into portions and freeze it after the ripening period. Without freezing, it will keep well for about 6 weeks. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as my family always has!

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