I love Christmas. I mean, I loooooove Christmas. To me it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. I’m sure you have your own list, but I love the carols, the cookies, the music on the radio. I love getting together with family and catching up. One of my favorite traditions is heading to the Gunflint Lodge in Minnesota for a weekend of relaxation. This year, my dad brought a delicious fruit cake up with us for the weekend. It was so beautiful I had to snap a few pictures before we cut into the cake.
Fruit cake is one of those desserts that has garnered a bad reputation over the years. People either love it dearly, or detest it passionately. For many years, I'd considered myself in the latter category. All this changed when I had a taste of my dad's fruit cake…it was absolutely delicious! This recipe originally comes from the Pilgrim Baptist Church Cookbook, but has several of my dad's adaptations. I asked him to type up the original recipe along with his hints and tips so that I could share it with you on my blog. Without further ado... take it away dad!
I love old church cookbooks and this recipe from Pilgrim Baptist Church circa 1960's is a good example. Every December my aunt would dutifully pull out her dog-eared copy and faithfully prepare several fruit cakes. Actually, it was only my aunt and I that truly loved eating fruit cake as the rest of the family merely had a slice to make auntie happy. But I urge you to forget past fruit cake experiences and give this one a try. Now while the recipe is simple it took several years of watching my aunt before I actually understood how to make this fruit cake.
Old Fashioned Fruit Cake Recipe
Ms. Velma Waters, Pilgrim Baptist Church Cookbook
1 pound butter
1 pound brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
½ cup wine
½ cup warm water
1 cup currants
2 cups candied fruits
2 cups raisins
2 cups nuts
1 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
7 cups flour
Directions from Cookbook
Mix butter, sugar and cream. Add eggs and liquid in order, flour, currants, fruits, raisins and nuts. Mix in all the spices. Spices are to be added to the flour and added before the nuts and raisins, etc. Bake at 250 degrees for approximately 4 hours.
Dad's Preparation Tips
Butter must be at room temperature, meaning you can push a finger into the butter block without resistance. Use dark brown sugar for a richer taste. Extra-large eggs are best. A good Zinfandel wine works best for the fruit cake. Tiny chopped up candied fruit can be used BUT using the larger chunks of fruit works much better and if you "really" like candied fruit you can add another ½ cup. Remember this is a butter cake (yum) with fruit and spices added. Use PECANS!! No other choice here.
Dad's Assembly Tips
Thoroughly mix spices, baking powder, baking soda and sifted flour together. In a medium bowl combine 2 cups of the flour mixture and candied fruit and mix until candied fruit is fully covered with flour and is no longer sticky (fingers work really good for this). The object here is to prevent the candied fruit from clumping together in the batter. Add in currants, raisins and nuts.
Cream butter on medium speed till light and fluffy, add sugars in several additions, creaming between each addition. Cream until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time until incorporated, and then add liquids. Now combine everything. Stir, DO NOT BEAT, together until everything is thoroughly mixed. This is a good workout for building arm strength.
Dad's Baking Tips
Here's where things get complicated! There is enough batter to make one 9x5 inch pan and one angel food pan. If you want smaller loafs you must reduce cooking time or you'll get cement brick fruit cakes. However, too little cooking time and you'll get cakes that fall apart, which is sad after so much effort. So for success just hang in there with me and have a loaf pan size and an angle food size cake.
Line the two pans with parchment paper cut to fit smoothly without any gaps. Remove parchment and grease pans. Replace parchment and liberally butter parchment paper and then flour, shaking off excess flour. Place a baking stone on the bottom oven shelf and place a 9x13 pan half filled with water on top of the baking stone. Preheat the oven for a half hour. Fill pans ¾ full and decorate top of batter with candied fruit and pecans until you think it looks pretty. Bake on middle shelf of oven. Set timer for 4 hours but check water in pan after 3 hours. Bake the loaf pan approximately 4 hours and the angel food pan approximately 4 ¾ hours.
When done, cool on rack for 20 to 30 minutes then invert and remove parchment paper. Cool completely on rack. For storage, wrap loafs in brandy (any spirit will work but I like brandy) soaked linen cloth, then in foil. Store in cool place.