Happy Christmas, everyone! What better time for me to get back to posting here than with this phenomenal recipe for fruitcake. Throw all your preconceived notions of disgusting, candied fruit-filled loaf nonsense out the window, because these are actually really, really good.
You start at least a day before by preparing the fruit. You use a lot of raisins, golden raisins, and currants…
…along with dried apricots, dried tart cherries, and dried cranberries.
To this you add honey and Cognac.
This big bowl of dried fruit, honey, and booze gets stirred together, covered with plastic wrap, and kept at room temperature for at least 24 hours to macerate (I left mine for a little over two days – the recipe says you can leave it for two weeks!).
The cake ingredients themselves are pretty simple, with a few notable twists. For one, you use bread flour rather than all-purpose. Martha doesn’t mention why but I imagine it’s because you need the extra gluten to hold all the fruit and nuts together. The flour is sifted with spices – pretty heavy amounts of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
And a whole tablespoon of salt!
Chopped walnuts go in too.
The wet ingredients are butter, sugar, and eggs and go together in the mixer and are folded in with the dry ingredients. This is all super easy – in fact, this is one of the easiest recipes I’ve done so far from the MSBH.
I used the biggest bowl I own to do all this because I knew I’d have to fold in the giant bowl of fruit. I didn’t do the math but just from eye-balling it, I’d say the ratio of fruit to dough is about 2-to-1.
It was a cinch to fold together, but would have been messy without a giant bowl.
They go into a relatively low-temperature oven for about two hours. After 30 minutes they smelled heavenly – it smelled just like Christmas baking was happening.
Once baked, they cool off and I used this time to make some candied orange slices to decorate the top. The photo in the MSBH has all these different lovely dried fruits on top; I couldn’t find anything like that but wanted to do something for a garnish.
I boiled each slice in a simple sugar mixture on the stovetop and then tried to form it into pleasing shapes. The toothpicks helped a lot!
Once the cakes were cooled, I cooked an apricot jam glaze. I couldn’t find any apricot jam at any stores here in my town, so I used preserves instead. Probably not ideal, but good enough. The glaze is simply jam cooked with a little water and then strained.
This is brushed on top of the cakes. They soak up a lot of the glaze.
Then I arranged the orange slices on top and added some walnut halves. I wish I had had some whole fresh cranberries to add as well, but alas I did not.
And then I put glaze on the topping too.
And that’s it! It took some time, and you do have to plan ahead in order to macerate the dried fruit, but overall it goes pretty quickly. More quick bread than cake, actually.
It tastes a lot like a quick bread too, although unlike any I’ve ever tasted. The fruit is the star here and it packs a punch. Dried fruit has an intense sweetness as it is; after steeping in brandy and honey for two days and then baked, the sweetness is exponentially powerful. The actual “cake” is really good and quite noticeable. Major clove flavor and a nice contrast to the sticky chewiness of the fruit. There is absolutely no strong boozy flavor, which I was worried about, but you can get a hint of the brandy after you swallow each bite. It’s nice.
It is better the next day – much easier to slice and handle than on the first day when it’s super crumbly.
I know there’s an old cliche about fruitcakes making horrible gifts but I would love to get a fruitcake like this. Granted, I could only eat about two bites for a serving because it’s just so intense, but those two bites are always awesome. Maybe I’d enjoy getting a quarter of a fruitcake like this.
And it makes a great bread for toasting (although I wouldn’t put it in a slot toaster – use a toaster oven where it can lay flat) with some goat cheese. I imagine it would freeze beautifully as well.
Happy holidays and happy baking, everyone! Thank you for sticking with me through my hiatus. Did you bake anything from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook for the holidays? If so, tell me about it in the comments.