Fruitcakes in the kitchen

I’ll say it right here: I like fruitcake. Don’t bother making the doorstop comments. I’ve heard every fruitcake joke, every cruel slam, each dagger to the heart of a noble dessert. It’s hard to bear the love that dare not speak its name.

When desperate, I will even eat bad fruitcake, since my body has yet to outgrow its need for sugar, fruit and butter. But I prefer my own fruitcake, which I make with dried fruit instead of the candied kind. My secret to good fruitcake is simple: Rum, and lots of it. Some even goes into the cake.

I chop up the dried fruit – this year, a mix of pineapple, cherries, raisins and papaya – and soak ’em all in black rum for at least a half hour. Drain the fruit thoroughly and enjoy the fumes. The rest of the cake includes chopped pecans and a basic poundcake-like batter.

While waiting for the cakes to cook, I like to sing fruitcake carols: (To the tune of We Need a Little Christmas)

Haul out the rum now! Chop up the fruit and toss it in a big ol’ bowl! Sof-ten the butter and add vanilla, sugar and some more rum now!

Because I’m gonna make a fruitcake, just you try and stop me! Then I’ll make you eat it. With a lot of coffee.Now I’m gonna make a fruitcake, just you try and stop me! I’m gonna make a fruitcake now!

A good rum’s work is never done, because when the cakes are cooked and cooled, I soak cheesecloth in it and wrap the fruity loveliness. Then I wrap the cakes tightly in foil and seal in plastic bags. Each day for about a week I re-soak the cheesecloth, taking the opportunity to enjoy the fumes once more, and re-wrap the cakes.

The result is, if I do say so myself, a fruitcake that even fruitcake haters enjoy. Or so I’ve been told by them. “It doesn’t have any of those green things,” my husband says. Like there’s something wrong with that. It must be the rum talking.

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4 Responses to “Fruitcakes in the kitchen”

  • Comment from Dean

    OK, I don’t like fruitcake that much, so is yours the type that will change me? Transform me to a fruitcake lover? If so, send me a sample, and I’ll write about it!

  • Comment from Debbie

    Only if you promise not to eat and drive!

  • Comment from Bill Smith

    Debbie, I love fruitcake too. My great grandmother made a dark one and a “white” one every winter. Unhappily the recipe for the white one is lost and I remember it being the best. She soaked hers in scuppernong wine. Every year I give Elizabeth Karmel (Girls at the Grill) some of my persimmon puree for her mother who uses it in her fruitcake recipe. This fruitcake is out of this world. She was here Thanksgiving week (her mother lives in Greensboro) and in return for this year’s puree, she brought me half of the last fruitcake from last Christmas. It had been sitting in brandy for a year. I almost swallowed it whole. Have a nice holiday. Bill Smith

  • Comment from Carol DeMasters

    Debbie, I find it so interesting that many people have something to say about a food they claim to hate. I wish Bill had his grandma’s recipe for white fruitcake.

    Here’s my recipe for white fruitcake. It is moist and slightly crunchy on the outside. And, yes, it calls for 4 tablespoons of lemon extract and the baking times and temperatures are not typos. You’ll need a strong arm to put it together, but it’s worth the effort.

    I cut fruitcake slices thick, then into bars or squares like fudge. I put those pieces in frilly paper cups on a tray at a party, and you will see many fruitcake haters trying these beauties. The recipe make 3 cakes–enough to give, to serve at parties, and to keep for snacking with some brandy.

    Holiday White Fruitcake
    1 pound unsalted butter (do not use margarine)
    2 cups sugar
    6 large eggs, separated
    4 cups plus 3 tablespoons unbleached flour
    4 tablespoons lemon extract
    1 pound candied whole red cherries
    1 pound golden raisins
    1/2 pound candied pineapple, cut in small chunks
    1 pound pecan halves

    Cream butter and sugar in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks. Gradually add 4 cups of flour and lemon extract, beating constantly until well mixed. Set aside.

    Beat egg whites in another large mixing bowl to stiff, not dry, peaks. Fold whites into batter. You’ll need a strong arm for this as the batter is stiff. Set batter aside.

    Combine cherries, raisins, pineapple and pecans in the biggest bowl you have. Sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of flour and gently stir to lightly coat all ingredients with flour. This helps to keep the fruit and nuts separate in the batter.

    Add the batter to the fruit mixture. Gently stir to combine. This require a strong arm but a light touch so as not the break up all of those gorgeous pecans. Line the bottoms of 3 ungreased 9x5x3-inch loaf pans with wax paper. Divide batter equally among pans, smoothing it in the pans. Put a pan of water on the top rack in the oven. Preheat to oven to 300 degrees. Use an oven thermometer to verify the accuracy of the temperature.

    Bake fruitcakes in 300-degree oven for 1 hour and 16 minutes. That’s right, 16 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 7 minutes. Turn off the oven. Leave the cakes in the closed oven for 7 more minutes. Insert a skewer in the center of the cakes. If it comes out clean, the cakes are baked. If not, add a few minutes of baking time at 300 degrees, but take care not to overbake.

    Cool cakes in pans on wire rack. Then remove from pans and wrap each one in cheesecloth that as been soaked with brandy. Wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks before serving.
    Periodically add more brandy at about 2 week intervals.

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