Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fruit Cake

When I think of my Grandma, I don't picture her in the kitchen all the time baking or making fancy meals. I remember she always made two kinds of meatballs (Swedish and red sauce), kept candy in her purse and sugary snacks in her cupboards. Even though she spent most of her life in California, she used canned goods like a good Detroit native but made homemade applesauce from the tree in their backyard in Cupertino.

It wasn't until after she died last year that I learned she would make fruit cakes at Christmas and took photos of herself with flowers people sent her. At her funeral, we looked through a lot of photos and sure enough, there was Grandma displaying a flower arrangement and lining up fruit cakes on the counter.

There are so many things I know I'll never get to ask her about her life, about my life, and although I haven't found her fruit cake recipe yet, I wanted to at least give it a whirl in memory of a stellar lady. And it seemed fitting to be a little closer to her a year after she passed away. 

Previously, my only experience with fruit cake was in 7th grade, reading Great Expectations (or some Charles Dickens novel) and my teacher brought in fruit cake for us to try. I know there are mixed reviews out there on fruit cake and whether it's light or dark, round or rectangular, raisins or dried fruits, booze or no booze. I don't remember having an averse reaction to the fruit cake but I wasn't like 'I have to make this'.

There are too many varieties to really pick one randomly but I knew I wanted a loaf fruit cake, not a round cake, and I wanted it to be boozy. So Joy of Cooking did me proud and provided this recipe.

It honestly sounded like a marathon, 1-3 hours of baking?? This actually only took about 1 hour but I also made about 6 smaller loaves instead of 1-2 big ones. 

First and foremost, cream the butter. Then add the sugar (only 2 cups...). Then eggs. Then molasses (treacle). Then citrus juice. Then a flour mixture alternating with brandy. If you have egg nog, pour some brandy in a glass with that nog and sip as you go along. 

Now for the fun part: all of the fixins. So much fruit. The recipe called for candied fruit which I believe was meant to be citrus, cherries and pineapple but here, it's raisins, currants and sultans (the bag even said 'great for fruit cakes'). On top of that, we add dates. On top of that we add walnuts. And then some golden raisins. And then some currants. At this point, I hope your biceps are really working because this batter is so thick and chopped full of fruit. It's amazing.

Spooned into the prepared pans (6 for me, maybe 2 for you). These all barely fit in my oven but I made it. And I even rotated them half-way through for even baking. So fancy. 

These should keep for a bit, maybe 3-4 weeks or you can freeze them. At least, I hope they keep because I mailed them back to the US, surprise!


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup (2 sticks in US) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups brown sugar (packed)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses (treacle in UK)
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 2 1/2 cups mixed candied fruits
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped dates
  • 1 1/2 cups currants
  • 1 1/2 cups golden raisins (I used mixed)
  1. Preheat the oven to 300F and grease two 9x5 loaf pans. I used 6 smaller disposable aluminum pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients (listed above until butter). Lightly mix together.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter with a hand or stand mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time.
  4. Beat in the brown sugar. Then add the molasses and mix until everything is smooth.
  5. Mix in the citrus zest and juices. 
  6. Next, alternate adding the flour mixture and the brandy. The batter will become thick but make sure the flour mixture is incorporated completely.
  7. Lastly, add the candied fruits, walnuts, dates, currants and raisins. I found it best to add these one at a time and fold in rather than all at once.
  8. Spoon the batter into the loaf pans, filling about half-way.
  9. If using two larger pans, this will likely require 2 hours to bake through. I found the smaller pans only took 1 hour to bake. 
  10. Bake until firm and cooked through.
  11. Serve warm or cooled. Joy of Cooking suggests these will keep for up to a month or longer if refrigerated. I'll let ya know....

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