Fruitcake 

The sequel

Two weeks ago, I shared details for macerating dried fruit in a boozy bath, as step one of my inaugural fruitcake-making adventure. As I had hoped, the fruit transformed into a proper "mash" that tickled both the nose and the tongue. At last, it was time to make cake.

Other than the aforementioned fruit and a slew of warming spices, the key ingredient to making a fruitcake is time. Unlike most cake batters, which typically bake in less than an hour, a fruitcake needs about three hours of oven time, plus a few extra prebatter steps. Block out an afternoon for this project, kids.

Fruitcake is also a great way to practice your mise en place skills, i.e. having all your ingredients and equipment accounted for before beating your batter. In addition to stocking your spice pantry, you'll need a deeper-than-average cake pan (or tube or springform pan), an ample supply of parchment or waxed paper, and a tin for the cooled cake's dormant storage period of a few weeks.

I haven't cut into mine yet, but a quick propping of my tin reveals a festive perfume of sugar, spice and everything nice – with an extra splash of cognac, of course.

Fruitcake Batter

Adapted from Caribbean Recipes Old & New by LaurelAnn Morley

Butter or oil spray for greasing pan

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature (I substituted equal amounts Earth Balance vegan shortening)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

4 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

At least 2 cups of dried and/or candied fruit that has been macerating for a few weeks (see Nov. 1 issue of CL for details)

2 teaspoons each lemon extract and almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4-1/2 cup "browning" (recipe below), or equal amounts of light maple syrup

1/2 cup rum or brandy

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch square or 10-inch round cake pan (at least 3 inches deep), lining it with a double layer of waxed or parchment paper, greasing both layers.

Using a mixer or food processor, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, sift flour and baking powder, and combine with spices. By hand, fold fruit into creamed egg mixture, alternatively with flour/spices. Add extracts and browning; batter should be a fairly dark brown color.

Place batter into prepared pan and cook until skewer inserted into middle of cake comes out clean, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours. Pierce top of cake with a skewer and pour booze over holes while still warm.

Allow to completely cool before unmolding, using edges of paper to pry out of pan. Wrap cake well in foil and store either in a tin or airtight plastic container. You may store for up to 3 weeks before eating. Cake may be eaten plain or covered with marzipan and/or royal icing or fondant.

Browning

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

In a shallow, heavy saucepan (cast-iron skillet is ideal), heat oil and sugar over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook, without stirring, for another minute, until sugar becomes a very dark brown color – but do not allow to burn. The entire process should take about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and slowly add water in a thin stream. This extremely hot mixture will bubble and splatter. When splattering stops, stir and cool. Mixture may be stored in an airtight plastic container.

The end result will be a thick, dark (but not black) liquid, like syrup.

Kim O'Donnel has a new cookbook out, A Mighty Appetite for the Holidays: Kitchen Tricks for the Feasting Season, featuring all her holiday recipes. To purchase, visit http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/97363/?utm_source=badge&utm_medium=banner&utm_content=280x160.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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