“He left Hollywood and renounced the pursuit of fame, joining a brotherhood of Franciscans who supported their monastery by refilling ink cartridges and baking fruitcake, available at Amazon.com.”
That’s a line from my first novel, summing up the future for an actor in dire need of redemption.
Obviously fruitcake means something to me too, and I wouldn’t be stretching it to say it has to do with the transformative act of baking. Every November I stir this batter together and I anticipate time spent with family and friends and the turn of the season — even in sunny Hollywood.
This year the lead up to the holidays has been heartbreaking. California is a herald of the deadly effects of the climate crisis. I spoke with someone I had just met in Savannah and we each fought back tears when it turned out we were from cities choked with smoke, she in the north, me in the south. So far from home she wanted to help, and I will share with you a link that I gave to her:
Hold on. We were talking about the transformative act of baking. For me cooking is both caring and comforting, as I hope it is for you. I’ve shared this recipe before, but I’ll trot it out again. It’s based on a silent film star’s recipe, and is more reminiscent of a British wedding cake than the cake you see wrapped in cellophane bars at the grocery store.
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.
There it is, delicacy or giant doorstop, I send it to you from my home to yours.