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.