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Fruitcake


mktye
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Until recently, I was never one who liked fruitcake... All I had ever tasted were dry, harshly-boozy cakes filled with unnaturally-colored, oddly-flavored fruit. But, last December, a baker friend gave me one of his fruitcakes. Oh. My. Goodness.

It was moist and filled with currants, raisins, dates, pineapple, figs, apricots, almonds, walnuts, pecans and candied ginger, with just enough spiced cake to hold it all together. Yes, there was definitely alcohol in the cake, but good alcohol... bourbon, brandy, rum, and an elusive hint of sherry.

So I have decided to make my own fruitcakes this year. After a trip to Trader Joe's this morning to buy supplies, I just chopped and mixed almost 7 pounds of various dried fruits and poured a quart of alcohol over the top of them. The next step is to lovingly tend the macerating fruit for two weeks or so until it is time to bake the cakes. Then the real fun begins -- aging the cakes, which entails alcohol showers (bourbon, daily at first, then weekly), air-tight containers and squirreling the cakes away in a dark, cool location. And when December rolls around, the cakes should be ready to eat (and I hope delicious).

Does anyone else here make their own fruitcake? Any helpful hints? Opinions on wrapping them with marzipan?

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aging the cakes, which entails alcohol showers (bourbon, daily at first, then weekly)

Ooh, sounds like a great way to age anything... or anyone.

Opinions on wrapping them with marzipan?

I adore marzipan, and I adore fruitcake, and I shudder at the thought of combining the two. Just doesn't sound right. :lol:

Good luck with the work! Sounds like you've started off right by going to a good source for the dried fruits and starting early enough for everything to get super-mellow. With the pre-soaking/macerating of the fruit, especially if there is not all that much cake involved, I would just be careful that the bourbon showers aren't too heavy. I don't know if your friend's recipe specifies amounts or not, but I would be concerned about the whole thing getting so soaked that it just disintegrates. Are the brandy, rum, and sherry just in the fruit, if the showers are bourbon?

Jael

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Are the brandy, rum, and sherry just in the fruit, if the showers are bourbon?
Brandy & rum to soak the fruit. Sherry as the liquid in the cake batter.

And it is my understanding that it is a very British thing to wrap one's fruitcake in marzipan. :lol:

Edited by mktye
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Actually, if you want to be traditional you have to wrap the booze-laden fruitcakes in a layer of marzipan then cover the marzipan in bug-sweet royal icing with various plastic or sugar decorations, like so:

AddDecorations.jpg

As far as the showers go, bourbon's a new one on me - it's more often rum or brandy, unless you just happen to like bourbon better.

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Brandy & rum to soak the fruit.  Sherry as the liquid in the cake batter.

And it is my understanding that it is a very British thing to wrap one's fruitcake in marzipan. :lol:

I don't know how "British" this is, but I think marzipan tastes like Christmas. Must be because when we lived in Germany fruit-shaped marzipan was a seasonal thing. I wonder, though, how you would keep it from drying out around a cake.

Hannah just beat me to the punch. I had heard of icing a fruitcake, but that is really not appealing, however lovely that picture is.

Edited by Barbara
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I don't know how "British" this is, but I think marzipan tastes like Christmas. Must be because when we lived in Germany fruit-shaped marzipan was a seasonal thing. I wonder, though, how you would keep it from drying out around a cake.

Hannah just beat me to the punch. I had heard of icing a fruitcake, but that is really not appealing, however lovely that picture is.

According to my British wife, marzipan is essential on a proper fruitcake. She was quick to add that Royal icing must cover the marzipan. Royal icing, in my opinion, is vile.

English fruitcake is the shit. That and a homemade christmas pudding. Both need to be completely liquored up. Sounds like a good start, although I've not heard the bourbon thing before. Growing up my mom used to soak pound cake in bourbon, but it really was the only thing making her pound cake tolerable.

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English fruitcake is the shit. That and a homemade christmas pudding. Both need to be completely liquored up.

Totally agree about the pudding. We have a friend who makes one every year. It's always iffy whether he'll be able to find suet.

Edited by Heather
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Totally agree about the pudding.  We have a friend who makes on every year.  It'a always iffy whether he'll be able to find suet.

There's a place out our way that carries Atora; I suspect some sort of exchange could be worked out. :lol:

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According to my British wife, marzipan is essential on a proper fruitcake. She was quick to add that Royal icing must cover the marzipan.  Royal icing, in my opinion, is vile.

Royal icing is really, really good for keeping the walls and ceiling of gingerbread houses in place. Other than that, it's only good for breaking teeth. Dries like cement, that stuff.

Jael

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I think the bourbon is a southern (U.S.) modification to the traditional fruitcake. I would not have thought of it either, but the cake I had last year was so good and bourbon is what is called for in the recipe.

Royal icing, in my opinion, is vile.
When I make royal icing, I add vanilla powder (it is pure white, so it will not change the color of the icing) -- makes for a much better tasting icing (but nothing can improve the texture).

(And thanks Jael, I'd forgotten that I had been considering doing a gingerbread house this year. :lol: )

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Totally agree about the pudding.  We have a friend who makes one every year.  It's always iffy whether he'll be able to find suet.

The "modern" steamed puddings I make don't use suet and steam for much less time than the traditional ones. One I make is a bourbon/pecan pudding with a bourbon/pecan sauce that one friend described as being like "liquid pralines." This was meant as a compliment. Another is a ginger/orange pudding served with a hardsauce made with orange liqeuer. A third is a "Caribbean" plum pudding that tastes more like a traditional Christmas pudding and is served with a brandied hard sauce. Whichever I make, it gets flamed with the lights out and everybody sings. This may be because, by this time, everyone is well lubricated :lol: .

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Now, now. There are modern steamed puddings which are quite wonderful. I usually make one for Christmas and let me tell ya, everybody loves them.

Oh no,

The Shit = The Best

I meant that I'm a huge fan of English fruitcake (sans royal icing). I love puddings too. Both are best when liberally stewed in booze for months.

English fruitcake reminds me of Christmas' for the past 12 years that I've been visiting my in-laws.

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Royal icing is really, really good for keeping the walls and ceiling of gingerbread houses in place. Other than that, it's only good for breaking teeth. Dries like cement, that stuff.

Jael

And also keeping the walls of your actual house patched.

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Being Brits, my mom always makes Christmas Cake (which is the fruit cake with the marzipan and the icing) and the Chistmas Pudding, or lovingly referred to as The Pudd. as well as mince pies (with the candied fruit mincemeat). The Christmas Cake I can take it or leave it, but there would be revolt if there was no Pudd. Mom just made this year's Pudd this past weekend. It is essential to dose the Pudd with alcohol (we use brandy) and then set it on fire before serving...actually sometimes we dose it twice and set it on fire twice...I mean why not. The outer shell becomes crispy and singed, little pockets of brandy remain and it makes for quite the show. we serve ours with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream...even better is reheated Pudd the next day for Boxing Day...it's all crunchy and alcoholy and fruity and everything has perfectly settled together. :lol:

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I have baked fruitcakes from scratch and aged them for as long as five years. I once dated a girl years ago whose mother and grandmother were obsessed with fruitcake and spent years-through several generations of their family-looking for the best. This is my adaptation of the recipe for it. The original is from the 1964 American Heritage Cookbook, entitled, simply "Black Fruitcake." It is the best that I have ever tasted. I've tried numerous combinations of rum, bourbon, sherry, etc. as well as different rums including Myers', dark Bacardi, etc. and about six or seven different kinds of bourbon. Gentleman Jack is the one I like best.

BLACK FRUITCAKE

1/2 lb. candied citron

1/4 lb. candied lemon peel

1/4 lb. candid orange peel

3/4 lb. candied cherries

1 lb. candied pineapple

1 lb. golden raisins

1/2 lb. seeded raisins

1/4 lb. currants

3/4 C. dark rum, cognac, sherry

or Madeira

1/4 lb. blanched shelled pecans

1/4 lb. shelled walnuts or pecans

2 C. sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. mace

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cloves

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 C. butter

1 C. sugar

1 C. brown sugar, firmly packed

5 eggs

1 T. milk

1 tsp. almond extract

Gentleman Jack whiskey for aging

Prepare fruits and nuts a day ahead. Sliver the citron, lemon and

orange peel into very thin strips; cut cherries in half and pineapple

in thin wedges. Set aside. Pick over raisins and currants to eliminate

stray stems or seeds; add Gentleman Jack and soak

overnight. Chop almonds and walnuts or pecans coarsely.

Set them aside, also.

The following day, grease a 10-inch tube pan, four 1-pound coffee cans,

or 2 bread pans measuring 9 x 5 x 3 inches. Line with brown paper.

To make the cake, mix 1/2 cup of the sifted flour with all the fruits

and nuts in a large bowl. Sift remaining flour with spices and baking

soda. Cream butter until soft, then work in granulated sugar and brown

sugar, a little at a time, until mixture is smooth. Stir in the eggs,

milk, almond extract and flour mixture. Mix thoroughly. Pour over the

fruit and nuts and work together with your hands until batter is very

well mixed. Lift the batter into the pan or pans and press it down

firmly to make a compact cake when cooked. Bake at 275ºF. A tube pan

that uses all the batter will take 3 1/4 hours. The bread pans, which

will each hold half the batter, will take 2 1/4 hours. The coffee cans,

which each hold one-fourth of the batter, will take 2 hours.

Remove cakes from oven, let stand 30 minutes, then turn out onto cake

racks. Peel off the brown paper very carefully. The four small, round

cakes make attractive Christmas gifts.

To age fruitcakes, allow at least two months. Wrap each cake in several

layers of cheesecloth well soaked in Gentleman Jack.

Place in an airtight container, such as a large crock, kettle or fruitcake tin, and

cover tightly. Wrap this in heavy duty aluminum foil and place n refrigerator or cool place. After about two weeks moisten the cheesecloth with a little more of

the Gentleman Jack. After four weeks drizzle a little more on the cheesecloth in the tin. The cakes should be firm, not

soft, at the end of the aging period. This will make them easy to slice

in neat, compact slices. If you wish to frost fruitcakes after they have

been properly aged, cover the top first with Almond Paste, then with

Milk Frosting. To decorate, make a garland of candied cherries, slivered

angelica, and blanched whole almonds around the edge of the cake.

Almond Paste

1 lb. blanched almonds

1 lb. confectioners' sugar, sifted

3 egg whites

1 tsp. almond extract or

2 tsp. rose water

Work almonds through a food grinder or blend in an electric blender.

Thoroughly mix in confectioners' sugar. Beat egg whites slightly, then

stir into the almond mixture. Add almond extract or rose water, using

your hands to blend the heavy mixture.

Milk Frosting

1 1/2 C. sugar

1/2 C. milk

1 tsp. butter

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine sugar, milk and butter in a saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly,

until mixture begins to boil. Then boil, without stirring, until a few

drops tested in cold water form a soft ball. Remove from heat, stir in

vanilla extract, and beat until frosting is of spreading consistency.

Spread over top of cake letting it dribble down the sides. If frosting

becomes too stiff to spread, melt in top of double boiler over boiling

water, then beat again.

________________________________________

Having said all this, years ago the Washington Post sent away for about 20 different mail order fruitcakes, sampled them all, and then listed each along with their notes from the tasting. I sent away for the top five and tried them as is, then took the two I liked the most and aged them both for an additional three months. One (coincidentally the one that the Post liked best) was remarkably good, made by the Monks of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY. This is the link to their website. It is their five pound fruitcake that you should consider. http://www.gethsemanifarms.org/index.asp AFTER YOU RECEIVE IT BUY AT LEAST ONE PINT OF GENTLEMAN JACK. Use the procedure noted above for aging. The cake without the additional aging is very good. With the additional bourbon and aging it is genuinely outstanding. The Monks fudge is also outstanding.

Edited by Joe H
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Ooh! A topic near and dear to my heart. I love love LOVE fruitcake. Growing up, it was one of main reasons to look forward to Christmas. I never got fruitcake jokes until I was at an adult and tried a commercial fruitcake. Bleh.

Until I started working with cakes, the thought of icing a fruitcake would never have occurred to me. But as good as plain fruitcake is, there's something magical about the combo of fruitcake, marzipan, and royal icing (or good rolled fondant). That and a strong cup of coffee will take you a long way.

Couple notes:

. You can age fruitcake with almost anything. I like bourbon. I also like it on my fruitcakes. :lol: But I've also used rum, a bit of Grand Marnier, brandy, even apple juice once for a friend who doesn't like alcoholic desserts. Stored that one in the fridge, just in case.

. Royal icing is indeed hard, but to ice a cake with it, you add a bit of glycerine. Keeps it just soft enough to cut and eat without doing harm to the old dental work. And properly applied it's quite a thin layer -- just enough to cover the marzipan and keep it from drying out.

I wasn 't planning on doing fruitcakes this year (just did a huge batch last year, so was going to skip), but if there's a December get-together in the works (hint, hint), I may have to throw a small batch together and ice one up for the group.

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I wasn 't planning on doing fruitcakes this year (just did a huge batch last year, so was going to skip), but if there's a December get-together in the works (hint, hint), I may have to throw a small batch together and ice one up for the group.

Ummm, if there wasn't one already in the works, I think this is enough reason to start planning one!

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Well, I got the fruitcakes baked last Saturday. Since the recipe I'm using (which, unfortunately, I do not have permission to share :lol: ) is written for professional use, it makes a lot! I thought about scaling it back but decided that I'd rather have too much fruitcake than too little.

My mixer bowl was barely big enough to beat together all the butter, sugar and eggs. And my largest kitchen bowl just allowed for the incorporation of the dry ingredients into the batter. But to mix together the batter and the macerated fruit required the "big guns"... a 14 qt. stockpot.

The author of the recipe advised me to use clean hands to mix it all up. That was good advice. And fun! Maybe it was because I had been sampling too much of the boozy fruit before I started mixing, but sticking my arms, halfway to my elbows, in batter and fruit was a blast!

After washing all the batter off my hands, I managed to find enough suitably-sized pans to hold all the fruitcake batter and squeezed them all into my single oven. So now there twenty fruitcakes are sitting in containers, brushed with bourbon and aging. I've decided to follow my friend's recipe with no deviations this year, so I am not wrapping the loaves with cheesecloth, but just sprikling them lightly with bourbon as directed. I am still undecided on the whole marzipan/royal icing issue, but I have at least a month to figure out that aspect.

(And I did have to do some quality control testing on one of the less pretty loaves... not too bad, even without being aged! :P )

One I make is a bourbon/pecan pudding with a bourbon/pecan sauce that one friend described as being like "liquid pralines."
Barbara was kind enough to type out the recipe for this steamed pudding for me so I could make it last week. Her friend is right. It is delicious!
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