This weekend I will be stirring up a fragrant, delicious, decidedly old school recipe that evokes the spirit of a spicy warm holiday, and that means fruitcake. Never fear, there will be no disgusting green cherries, or sickly sweet lumps of candied pineapple. My recipe will make two loaves of cake. The longer you age it the more mellow and scrumptious it becomes. Some people place the cakes in a tin, in a cool place, for up to a year. So, let’s say minimum aging time for a fruitcake is four weeks (six weeks is better, but sometimes I forget to look at the calendar), and if you’re bold make a big batch and see what they taste like next year. In the initial four to six weeks you will brush or drizzle the cheesecloth wrapped cake with the booze of your choice. Just keep an eye on it and make sure the cloth always is a little damp. After the first four to six weeks just seal those puppies up and serve when you will.
Vickie Lester’s Christmas Fruitcake
Combine 1 cup dried cherries, 1 cup golden raisins, 1 cup chopped dried apricots, 1 cup chopped prunes, 1/2 cup currant jelly, 1/2 cup candied lemon or orange peel. Cover and soak in the juice of 4 Meyer lemons and 1/2 cup St. Germaine liqueur over night.
The following morning mix into the fruit: 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 cup chopped hazelnuts, 1/2 cup – 1 cup shredded coconut.
Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Butter and flour two loaf pans and fill a roasting pan with an inch of water because as the cakes bake they need steam or they’ll crack.
Now make the cake batter. Cream 1 cup butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 cup brown sugar. Add six eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth. Fold in 2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of cardamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.
Stir the fruit and nut mixture into the batter and pour into the buttered and floured loaf pans. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and place the loaf pans in the roaster with the inch of water. If this is unwieldy, just make sure you put a pie pan filled with water in the oven along with the loaf pans. Bake for 2 hours. Take off the aluminum foil and bake an additional 40 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and pans and cool on a wire rack. Wait until they are completely cool and then wrap in cheesecloth and pour that St. Germaine (or Cognac, or Whiskey, or whatever you like) all over the cake until the cheesecloth is saturated. Wrap in several layers of foil and stick the fruitcake in the fridge. Unwrap the cakes and peek at them every few days and if they look dry brush, or drizzle, with St. Germaine. After two weeks check once a week to see if they need refreshing. By the time you eat the fruitcake the alcohol will have evaporated out and all you will be left with is the flavor of your favorite concoction infusing the dessert.
Now we take a stroll through the past to visit a forgotten comedienne and beloved member of the Hollywood community from a long, long, time ago. Her recipe for fruitcake (if you don’t tinker with it) will take care of a good portion of your gifting obligations this season.
Louis Fazenda was a wonderful comedienne in silents. She married producer Hal B. Wallis (“The Maltese Falcon”, “Now Voyager”) in 1927 and they were devoted to each other, even though he was referred to as the “Prisoner of Fazenda” on the lot… Louis was a wonderful person, a great slapstick actress, a fine cook, and truly caring. She was known to pay medical bills for those who couldn’t afford to, and she regularly cooked tempting meals and delivered them to the hospital when nurses couldn’t get children to eat. She would sit by the child’s bedside and spoon feed them. This fruitcake recipe has beyond good karma – we’ll discuss how to update it after the photo.
Christmas Fruit Cake
Granted this is a project. But, if you’re a fruitcake fan it’s worth the effort. First up a little translation – a slow oven temperature is between 300-325 °F. Also, when this recipe was published in 1931 Prohibition was still in effect. I pour whiskey over the fruit and nuke it in the microwave until it plumps up (not the citron). A note about the citron, what you get in those plastic little containers at the grocery store is gross. If you like fruitcake it’s worth sourcing some good candied orange peel, or you can do it yourself, it’s not hard and there are recipes all over the web. See those three pounds of raisins? Instead I use one pound dried cherries, one pound chopped dried apricots, and one pound walnuts. If you soak the walnuts overnight in cold water it takes away the bitter flavor and makes them slightly moist, which is nice in the cake.
You’ll notice it calls for a single loaf pan to bake the cake. How big would that loaf pan have to be? I use several pans (eyeball your batter and adjust accordingly) and I reduce the cooking time to two and a half hours. You know how to test a cake – when you insert a blade or toothpick in the center it should come out clean.
Experiment, fruitcake is very forgiving. You can even wrap it in cheesecloth and make it tipsy before Christmas (brush it once a day with your favorite liquor). And, when it’s baking, oh, your house will smell divine.