Monday, November 29, 2010

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as good fruitcake

A woman with shorn white hair is standing at the kitchen window. She is wearing tennis shoes and a shapeless gray sweater over a summery calico dress. She is small and spritely, like a bantam hen; but, due to a long youthful illness, her shoulders are pitifully hunched. Her face is remarkable--not unlike Lincoln's, craggy like that, and tinted by sun and wind; but it is delicate too, finely boned, and her eyes are sherry-colored and timid. "Oh my," she exclaims, her breath smoking the window pane, "it's fruitcake weather!"
from Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

I heart fruitcake, yes I do, and I think if more people had good fruitcake, they would like it, too. Sadly, for many Americans living above the Mason-Dixon line, the idea of fruitcake is a dry-as-dust, oblong, studded-with-dayglo mystery fruit. It has become the butt of jokes, and a favorite object for "re-gifting". Now I have heard that down South, a delicious fruitcake can be had. As a yankee, my key to success was to find a source from someone who is not American. Not un-American. NOT American. Someone who was born in a country where fruitcake is appreciated and lovingly made. My recipes have come from both across the pond and down under. I feel it is my civic duty to spread the fruitcake love, my charge as an ambassador, trying to change the mind of one fruitcake-hater at a time...

I start with 7 pounds of mixed dried fruit--apricots, figs, strawberries, blueberries, raisins, etc. Soak overnight in two cups of blackberry brandy.
1 pound sugar
1 dozen eggs
1 pound flour
1 pound butter
1/2 jar marmalade (approx. 7 ounces)
1/2 jar berry jam (approx. 7 ounces)

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the yolks of the eggs, then the flour and slightly beaten egg whites. Add the fruit and the jam. Put a greased or buttered paper at the bottom of the pan and also on the top of the cake mixture--I use parchment paper liners and an old Courier and Ives cookie tin to bake in. Pour the batter into the pan. Keep top covered with the parchment for the first two hours of baking, then remove. Bake at 300 degrees for three hours. Douse with more brandy if you like.

I like using a cookie tin because I can both bake and store the cake in it. Let the cake cool completely before removing. The paper-lined bottom will make it easy to shake out.

42 comments:

deb said...

okay... you are my new bff!

I love real properly made fruitcake.
And this cookie tin idea is brilliant . Brilliant.

I wonder if it's worth making . I don't know if I could convince my family to try it and I really can't do gluten....

deb said...

oh, and that writing was exquisite, truman capote?

Jodi said...

Deb, in truth I'm the only one in my family who will eat it. Fortunately I have friends with more sophisticated palates who are more that happy to help me out. Is the question mark for Truman Capote because you're not familiar with him, or because you're as shocked as I was to find something so lovely from the same man who wrote something so horrible as In Cold Blood?

IslandHome said...

Your cake looks great!
We use a recipe handed down through a friends family for generations - an enormous concoction that makes two large cakes from the days when the tins had to be full all the time to feed the shearers, farmhands and all who dropped by. We made the recipe up last week - one huge one for Christmas that will be iced with marzipan and then brandy butter icing and a smaller 30cm square cake that has already disappeared! Do you soak your fruit in brandy or sherry overnight first? It makes a huge difference, stopping all that dryness.

Jodi said...

Julia, I soak the fruit in brandy overnight first. I have a recipe for NZ Wedding Cake that I like to make as well. Both the cakes I make have no icing, but I'm quite excited because an English friend of mine is going to show me how to make a proper Christmas cake with marzipan icing. I can't wait! Brandy butter icing sure sounds delicious.

Jodi said...

P.S. Julia, thanks for saying the cake looks great!

marygems said...

I'm in New Zealand. My brother married a Texan and for 19 years lived there,and boy did he miss proper fruit-cake- so I'm glad an American is starting the trend of making a really good one- go YOU~! Well done!

Nancy said...

Okay, when I saw the title of this post I was afraid I was going to have to start questioning the solidity of our virtual friendship. Definitely not a fruitcake person! However. I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures and this post. Clearly, you bake with imagination and love and no small amount of brandy. I love that you bake it in a Currier and Ives tin. I think our friendship is safe. Unless of course you post something about cooking okra.

Rayanne said...

Your fruit cake recipe looks good!
My best friend made the best fruit cake ever(Texan).
Never would give me the recipe. She past away a few years ago and took that recipe with her!
I'm still working on her family secret.
Now, I will try yours, it seems like it will be oh so yummy!

Cheryl said...

Are you sure it is fruit cake that is being re-gifted? I've never seen a fruit cake with day-glo fruit and if its dry, it's just not fruit cake. Is this like the buzzard mix up? (Our buzzards look nothing like yours.)

I've not put brandy butter icing on a fruit cake, so I'm intrigued. My mother always puts royal icing on the Christmas cake.

Val said...

I love this post...I also love fruitcake...what is sold as fruitcake here can be unbelievably awful and totally inedible...I found glace'ing my own cherries helps.
Dundee cake is a semi-rich fruitcake that is lighter if you want to gradually enlighten the masses lol (contains lots of ground almonds and whisky very yummy)

Jodi said...

marygems, my daughter's a Pennsylvannian who's married to a Kiwi and lives in New Zealand! My favorite fruit cake recipe came from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Jodi said...

Nancy, you're gonna have to reach deep down into your unconditional love pocket, 'cause I love me some friend okra. "Like fried chicken, fried okra, biscuits and gravy..."

Claudia said...

oh how nice! it definitely is fruit-cake weather and i may should try one myself..

Jodi said...

Cheryl, they call it fruit cake. That's why most people won't try the good one. The fruit in it is green, red, and yellow; rock hard and glowing-in-a-bad-way bits.

Jodi said...

Val, that sounds good. Can you substitute golden syrup for the molasses?

Jodi said...

Rayanne, let me know how it comes out if you do make one.

Claudia, give it a go!

Nancy said...

*Laughing uncontrollably, loving unconditionally!*

Val said...

No Molasses honest Jodi ..You were speed reading
but if I was talking we'd have the same problem as I talk much too fast !!! lol

I'll find the recipe if you'd like to try it when you have time :0)

Jodi said...

Val, hahahaha! Hi-larious! I was part speed reading and part tripping down Memory Lane at the mention of whisky. Let me explain...when I was a kid, there was a whisky factory not far from us. The smell would make me gag; whenever we drove by it, I'd lie on the floor of my dad's car until we passed by. But since I'm a big girl now, I'm willing to give the cake a try if you do find the recipe. xo

Hana - Marmota said...

Now, the question is, where does this poor Czech girl find blackberry brandy and proper marmalade? *sigh*
It certainly looks and sounds very tasty!

Jodi said...

Hana, you can substitute a sweet wine if you can get it, and I would mail you a jar of marmalade.

Val said...

Any alcohol is fine Jodi...brandy works well too
I'll find the recipe :0)

Sara said...

Wow, one dozen eggs, and three hours of baking??? Amazing. I have never had a REAL fruitcake like this, but I know I'd love it.

IslandHome said...

Ooops - of course you soak the fruit, I must have been speed reading too! To ice the cake cover the whole thing with a very thin layer of apricot jam then a layer of marzipan (about 1/2cm thick) then top with the following:

Brandy butter icing:
-100g butter, softened
-1/4 tsp vanilla essence
-2 cups icing sugar, sifted
-1-2 Tb brandy

Cream butter until light and fluffy, add vanilla. Gradually beat in icing sugar until smooth. Add sufficient brandy to give a spreading consistency. Spread over top of marzipan layer. Lick bowl ;-)
For a big cake you'll probably need to double this -it should be a good generous covering.

Jodi said...

Julia, wahoo and thank you!

Jodi said...

Sara, you're a person of quality!

Kristi in the Western Reserve said...

I love fruitcake, having grown up with my grandmothers wonderful fruitcakes every Christmas. She made light ones and dark ones, about six or eight weeks before Christmas. They were wrapped in waxed paper and then in several layers of newspapers and every Sunday until Christmas they were unwrapped and sprinkled liberally with more brandy. Nana called this "sweating" the fruitcake. They were wonderful by Christmas! I don't have her exact recipes because she didn't really bake with exact recipes. She just knew what she was doing. And I've only done this a few times, but when I did, everyone loved them. It's a little too late to begin this year, but maybe I will try, anyway. Thanks for this inspiration!

Hana - Marmota said...

Thanks for the offer! I actually think marmalade is less of a problem... I've realised it can be obtained here, if one looks. I was more worried about the brandy. :-)
When I have a lot of time and patience, I'll try it!

Jodi said...

Kristi, I hope you do give it a try, and let me know how it turns out. There's plenty of time--fruitcake's good in January, too!

Jodi said...

Hana, anyone who has the patience to sew pretty dresses can make a fruitcake. :) It's easier than it looks.

Lanier said...

Jodi, those have to be my very favorite opening lines of all time. The women in our family all start weltering at the very thought of 'fruitcake weather', we've read it out loud (or attempted to without falling apart, I should say ;)) so many times the words feel like Christmas traditions themselves.
And I am so inspired by your recipe--intent on nudging it into the baking schedule this year. My mother would LOVE it.
I pretended to like fruitcake for years, particularly the ones well-meaning cousins would send from S. GA...and one day I actually realized I wasn't pretending anymore. My mother said it was a rite of passage. ;)

Undeserving Grace said...

I've never tried fruit cake before or had any idea I was missing out but geeez...I'm curious now...I'm going to have to make some..or ask my grandma too! undeservingrace.com

Esther - TTByM said...

I am going to try this for my Christmas dinner! I am your new follower!

Emily Young said...

Now I'm hungry!

Thanks for reading my article! Your comment brightened my day : )

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the brandy buttter icing. I don't think I've had butter icing with anything stronger than orange added to it. I think I've had a sheltered life.

Jodi said...

Lanier, I was hoping a Southern gal would weigh in!

Grace and Esther, best wishes with your baking. Hope you like it.

Jodi said...

Miss Emily, it was my pleasure.

Cheryl, you're welcome. So happy to broaden your horizons ;) hehehe

Niamh said...

When I was little, my parents were very poor, my dad being in the military and my mother a stay at home mother. In order to save money on groceries, my dad would bring home MREs that were unused by the military for us to eat. One of the desserts available was fruitcake, not like the fruitcake you have made, it was less spicey and very sweet. Almost like eating a blondie with fruit in it. Having very little, the fruitcakes were quite a treat!

mary1991 said...

Hi Mrs. Jodi, The fruit cake looks so good. I can't wait for you to come to our house with Joy and Rhys. I am so looking forward to meeting him and going antique shopping. I looked at Bronwn's blog and added some commnents to hers. It is really creative. I might want to start one of my own soon! See you! Mary Drennen

Quotidian Life said...

This sounds delicious, Jodi. Really? Seven pounds of dried fruit? I can hardly imagine it fitting into a tin after being soaked in brandy! I'm saving this recipe for next year when we are back in our own home and preparing for Christmas "properly."

Kat said...

Oh, I would love to try this.

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