fruitcake (2020)

fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020

Happy winter holidays! Every year around this time we pull out the fruitcakes: dark, sticky, dense, eighty percent dried fruit, full of tradition and less so, elegance.

While the exciting time, when we can taste the cake, is now, the process usually starts in late summer or fall. Brushed with rum and wrapped up in paper and a double layer of plastic, the cakes age in the dark whilst pondering their existence for at least a few months – or a few years. By far, the best fruitcakes are old and existential.

fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020

Stored appropriately, fruitcake can be safely (and deliciously!) eaten years later. Usually a few years is the golden age as the flavours become less distinct, a blurring of cake and fruit into the coveted fruitcake.

But this time around, thanks to presoaking the dried fruit in rum, I also very much realised the appeal of a youthful fruitcake! Quite frankly we should have been doing this a long time ago, but this was our first year. Fruitcake acts as an annual cupboard cleanup: we put in all the open and partially used bags of dried fruit we have, which also means that the fruit is often quite desiccated. Pre-soaking revives the fruit, tempers their sweetness, and ensures the entire cake is moist and saturated right after baking (instead of needing a few years of biannual rum-soaking). It also gave the cake a cohesiveness of flavour that reminded me of what the aging process accomplishes… I can’t believe we hadn’t done that sooner!

fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020
fruitcake 2020

fruitcake tasting

The annual fruitcake tasting acts as a chance to pause and reflect on past years. Well, specifically, a chance to pause and reflect on fruitcakes of past years.

Since I last posted about fruitcake in 2015, we’ve become much more consistent, settling on a preferred assortment of dried fruits. While it makes for consistently better fruitcakes, it does also make for a slightly less exciting fruitcake tasting – unlike five years ago, where each fruitcake had its own distinct profile (2009, the last year of glow-in-the-dark maraschino cherry fruitcake; 2010, dried-burnt-and-far-too-much-candied-ginger fruitcake (never did ginger again); and 2011, spongy-dried-apple-fruitcake (never did dried apples again)). Since then, it seems we found what we liked and we’ve stuck with it.

  • 2012 was our favourite five years ago when it hit the golden age of three years (and thankfully had no spongy dried apples). How did it stand up to the test of time? While it oxidized beautifully, taking on a deeper darker colour … it also got a bit too old, gaining a slight tar-like flavour. For posterity’s sake we’ll keep it, but at eight years of age, it has passed the prime age for nibbling.
  • 2014 was a junior in 2015. It has since matured and mellowed considerably. Of note, the particular fruit combination we used that year is noticeably less tart than the others.
  • 2015-2017 is where the uniformity sets in, all being extremely similar versions of each other that are tart and chewy on the forefront.
  • 2020 is where the cake and spices are most apparent. But thanks to presoaking the fruit in rum, even at only a half a year old, the cake was incredibly moist and the fruit mellow and saturated with rum. While young, I do think this will be our best fruitcakes in future years!

Happy fruitcake baking!

fruitcake 2020

fruitcake

  • Servings: five to six 1 to 1.25kg loaves
  • Print

dried fruit preparation

  • total of 4.2-4.5 kg dried fruit; this year we used:
    • 130g homemade candied orange peel
    • 1.4kg raisins
    • 500g golden raisins
    • 600g dried currants
    • 700g dried apricots, cut into quarters
    • 425g dried cherries
    • 425g dried cranberries
  • 2 cups rum

fruitcake

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 12 eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • cream of tartar
  • 454 (1lb) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 240g (1 cup) coffee

dried fruit preparation

Begin by preparing the fruit. In a large bowl or pot, toss together the dried fruit and rum. Cover and let sit for a few days or until the rum is just about entirely absorbed.

making the cakes

Line 5 or 6 loaf pans with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 275F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and molasses.

In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until they reach firm peaks. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Now place the butter, sugar and vanilla together in the bowl of a standmixer. Cream with the paddle until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and molassses mixture and beat until combined.

Now transfer the butter mixture to an extra extra large bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the following in order: half of the flour mixture, then half of the coffee, half of the remaining flour, the remaining coffee and the last of the flour.

Whisk the whipped egg whites to loosen. Take a large dollop of the egg whites and whisk into the batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Now add the fruit – it’s easiest to mix it in in two additions. Divide the batter evenly amongst the prepared pans and spread the top of each cake flat.

Bake for around 2 1/2 hours or until an inserted skewer is removed clean or with a few moist crumbs cleaning. Let cool completely.

storage

Fruitcake is good right away, but best if it has at least a couple months to age. We wrap the cakes completely in parchment paper to avoid any direct contact between the cake and the plastic, then double bag it. Every so often take the cakes out a brush a spoonful of dark rum overtop. If you plan to keep the cakes for years, it’s safest to keep them in the fridge away from excess moisture.

fruitcake 2020

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