When I was growing up, fruitcake was enjoyed mostly by grown ups around the holidays. It seemed to be an adult treat; a desire for the fruit-filled doorstop escaped me entirely. My mom, her friends and my aunts looked forward to gathering in the kitchen to make fruitcake, much like we kids anticipated frosted sugar cookies and Russian Tea Cakes. I remember fruitcakes being baked in late November, wrapped in brandy soaked cheesecloth, and then tucked away in obscure places around the house to “season.” Years passed before I realized I could make fruitcake without citron, raisins or candied fruit mix. I started experimenting and came up with Grandma B.’s Fruitcake. Fruitcake has become an integral part of the holidays for me, partially because it’s full of my own made-to-order ingredients while filling my house and my heart with the sweet and fruity, spicy fragrance of the holidays.
Grandma B’s Fruitcake
1 to 2 cups red candied cherries, halved
1 cup green candied cherries, halved
1 cup green or red candied pineapple, halved
1 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup orange or apple juice
4 tablespoons apricot or blackberry flavored Brandy
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 to 1 1/2 cups pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon soda
Additional candied cherries and pecan or walnut halves for decoration, if desired
Additional brandy, if desired
Combine first 10 ingredients together in a large mixing bowl; cover and allow flavors to meld for 1 to 2 hours. Whisk together the flour, salt and soda; set aside. Cream together eggs and brown sugar until fluffy; add eggs 1 at a time beating thoroughly with each addition. Add dry ingredients to egg and sugar mixture; mix well. Fold in fruit mixture; mix gently until fruit is fully coated with cake batter.
Grease 2 5×9-inch loaf pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Divide the fruitcake batter and spoon half into each loaf pan. Bake at 300° for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Cool fruitcakes on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely. Decorate with additional cherries and pecan or walnut halves, if desired. Saturate cheesecloth in brandy and wrap around fruitcakes. Store fruitcakes in air-tight containers and refresh with additional brandy as needed.
Yield: 2 fruitcakes