Pity the much-maligned fruit cake. My suspicion is that people’s poor opinions of fruitcake are based on bad experiences with store-bought loaves full of dried-out, corn-syrup candied fruit–nothing like what I enjoyed growing up. My mom’s fruitcake, loosely based on a recipe she got from an early 1950’s Betty Crocker cookbook–omitted all of that sickly-sweet dyed fruit. Instead, she filled it with plump raisins, heady spices and other dried fruits. Those, and LOTS of pecans. Pecan trees grew on grandma’s property in Texas, so cramming the cakes full of pecans didn’t add cost to the cakes. In my memory, Mom’s fruitcakes were really nut cakes, held together by just enough darkly spiced cake and softened with fruit. Here then, is her recipe. Bake plenty—you may start a good-fruitcake revival!
Makes 1, 10-inch fruit cake
- Heavy kraft paper (brown paper bag)
- 2 Tbsp shortening, or enough to generously grease paper
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups sifted flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. soda
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. each cloves and mace
- 1/4 tsp. powdered ginger (optional)
- 3/4 cup strong coffee, warm
- 1/2 cup plum or currant jelly
- 1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
- 1 lb. plumped seedless raisins
- 1/2 lb. plumped currants
- 1/2 lb. plumped dried apricots (or mix of plumped diced dried apricots and plumped dried cranberries)
- 1 1/2 lbs. pecans, picked over
- Juice of one orange
- Juice of one lemon
- Finely-grated rind from the orange you just juiced (do not grate the white pith)
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- With a pencil, trace around bottom of 10 x 4 tube pan, making a circle on a heavy, brown paper bag. Cut out. Cut hole in center of paper circle large enough for tube of angel food cake pan to pass through. Cut wide strips to go around inside wall of pan as well. (Cutting periodic slits in strips will allow the strips to adjust to sloped sides of pan.)Coat all paper liners with shortening. Press liners into bottom and against inside walls of the tube pan.
- In large bowl, cream butter, shortening and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs. In separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients, including spices. In small bowl, mix jelly, coffee and molasses. Mix dry and wet ingredients alternately into the sugar/shortening/egg mixture.
- To plump fruits: wash fruits. Place with a tsp or two of water in covered glass casserole and heat in moderate 350 oven until raisins and currants puff up.
- Once fruits are plumped, fold into batter with nuts, fruit juice and grated rind. Fill prepared pan. Bake 3 1/2 to four hours–loosely covering the pan with foil during the last hour)–until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool cake.
- Remove from pan and discard paper. For even more flavor: Wrap in wine- or brandy-dampened cheesecloth. Store in airtight container in cool place. Periodically re-dampen cloth with wine/brandy. If not soaking cake, wrap tightly in foil. Store in airtight container in cool place. .