Fruitcakes are made of any and all of the following: candied fruit, dried fruit, fruit rind, nuts, spices and some sort of liquor or brandy.
Fruitcakes should be made well in advance of the time that they will be used. One month of storage is a necessity. Two, three, or even four months is not too long a time if the storage facilities are cool and dry.
Fruitcakes freeze very well. However, they must be aged at least four weeks before freezing, as they do not mellow while they are frozen.
Take several days to make your cake or cakes. Prepare the nuts and fruits, pour the liquor to be used over them, and let the mixture stand well covered for two or three days. Then make the batter and bake your cakes. The cakes will be better and the pressure in a busy household will be eased.
Always bake fruitcakes at a low temperature, no higher than 325 degrees and preferably much lower. Line the pans with brown paper or waxed paper to prevent the cakes from burning during the long baking time. Always place a pan of hot water on the floor of the oven. This prevents the cakes from drying out. Test for doneness with a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake. It will come out moist, but not doughy, when the cake is done.
Cool fruitcakes on a rack in the pans in which they were baked. When cakes are cooled, turn them out of the pans and carefully peel off the paper. If you are not decorating the cakes before storing them, wrap them in cheesecloth. Sprinkle liberally with whatever liquor or wine was used in the recipe. Seal the cakes in plastic wrap or in plastic storage bags. Once a week, brush the cakes with more liquor.
Perhaps the most important, don’t feel absolutely bound by a recipe. If the recipe calls for brandy and you don’t have it (or like it), use wine or even a fruit juice of your choice. If the recipe calls for citron and you don’t care for citron, substitute another candied or dried fruit. If you don’t like raisins, use more chopped dates and fewer raisins. If the recipe calls for particular amounts of candied pineapple and cherries, the same weight of a fruit mix may be used. The important thing to keep in mind is that the weight of fruit and nuts should be approximately the same as in the original recipe. Within this boundary, you can make substitutions of your own choice.
Additional Fruitcake Tips and Hints:
* Use fresh good quality ingredients – make sure spices are fresh.
* Soak fruit and nuts at least overnight in fruit juice or liquors to soften, drain and use excess liquid in recipe.
* Dredge fruit and nuts with some flour so they won’t sink in batter. Shake off excess flour and use in the recipe.
* If changing pan sizes, remember baking time will be altered in the recipe. Fruitcakes may be baked in muffin tins, disposable pans, etc.
* Be sure to grease and flour pans or use greased brown paper for liners. Greased wax paper is also used in some recipes.
* Place a pan of water on rack or on the oven floor below the baking cake.
* If cake is browning too fast, place a sheet of foil the top of the cake.
* Test for doneness by placing a metal/wooden skewer in center of cake. If it comes out clean, cake is done. Be careful not to over bake.
* Always cool fruitcakes completely in pan and remove when cold.
* Pour or brush some liquor of choice over hot cakes for good flavor. Poke cake with skewer if desired.
* Fruitcakes taste better with age! This is called “ripening.” Liquor based cakes may be stored several months in advance in a cool place prior to serving. Non-liquor soaked cakes may be kept in a cool place or in refrigerator for short term storage or a or freezer for long storage. Be sure to ripen fruit cakes a few weeks before freezing.
* To store for a long period of time, wrap the cake in brandy or wine-soaked towels, and then wrap in either plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
* For very long storage, bury the liquor-soaked cake in powdered sugar and place in a tightly covered tin in a cool place (fruit cakes can be enjoyed as long as 25 years this way.) Check liquored-soaked cakes periodically and rewrap in liquor soaked cloth.
* Frost cakes close to serving time (not ahead of time). Use a sugar-syrup glaze to brush on cakes for a shine and to adhere.
* Slice cakes in a sawing motion with sharp thin blade of knife or a serrated knife.
* Add 1 cup of applesauce to your fruit cake recipes to make a moister fruitcake.
* Refreshen stale fruitcakes by gently heating pieces (microwave or steamer) and serve with a hard sauce, brandy sauce, glaze or desired topping.
1 1/2 cups candied yellow pineapple, chopped
1 1/2 cups candied red cherries, chopped
1 cup raisins
3/4 cup currants
2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup white grape juice
1 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 teaspoon almond extract
Grease a 10-inch tube or bundt pan; line with wax paper and grease well.
In a large bowl, combine candied pineapple, candied cherries, raisins, currants, and pecans or walnuts. Add grape juice; stir until well blended. Let stand 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream butter or margarine. Gradually add brown sugar, stirring until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In another large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and mace; gradually add to butter mixture. Add almond extract and fruit mixture; stir until well blended. Spoon into prepared pan.
Bake 3 hours and 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan, peel paper liner from cake, and cook completely.
Wrap in a brandy-soaked cheesecloth; store in an airtight container for one week. After one week, store in the refrigerator.
Elsie’s Blue Ribbon Fruitcakes
3 cups whole candied cherries
2 cups dark raisins
6 cups mixed candied fruits (of your choice)
6 cups mixed nuts (not salted), your choice of nuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups firmly-packed brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground allspice
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Generously grease (using solid vegetable shortening) and flour ten (1-pound) loaf pans. Place a pan of water on the lowest rack in the oven.
In a large bowl, combine candied cherries, raisins, mixed candied fruits, nuts and 2 cups flour; set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the vegetable oil, brown sugar, and eggs.
In another large bowl, combine the 4 cups flour, baking powder, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves. Add dry ingredients, alternately with orange juice, to the egg mixture, beating after each addition until well blended.
Pour prepared batter over the candied fruit/nut mixture, mixing well. Pour into prepared loaf pans.
Bake the fruitcakes approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Test for doneness by placing a metal/wooden skewer in center of cake. If it comes out clean, cake is done. Be careful not to over bake. Remove from oven and let the fruitcakes completely cool in the baking pans.
Source: From the cookbook called A World of Baking by Dolores Casella, Photo: whatscookingamerica.net