Makes four 9 x 5-inch loavesPrint
Many of us have not-so-fond memories of fruitcakes that contained dried candied citrus peels and artificially dyed fruit pieces that would arrive in a round tin. This is not that fruitcake. We promise.
When buying naturally dried fruit, buy in bulk from a health food store for the best price and to avoid the preservatives often used to keep dried fruit soft. It takes a while to chop all the fruit, so invite friends to make this recipe in your kitchen and share the bounty.
We’ve learned that the two keys to a really good fruitcake are good ingredients and time. Make this in late summer or at least eight weeks before Christmas, and store it in a cool, dry basement or in the back of the refrigerator. For a lovely holiday gift, wrap a loaf in fresh cheesecloth topped with a sprig of holly.
5 pounds mixed dried fruit (such as currants, golden raisins, dates, apricots, cherries, figs), cut into raisin-size pieces
1/2 pound walnuts (1 cup), coarsely chopped
1/2 pound pecans (1 cup), coarsely chopped
2 cups brandy or bourbon, plus more as needed
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
10 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup apricot nectar (available in a specialty food store)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur (such as triple sec or Cointreau)
Place the fruit and the nuts in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the brandy to cover. Let the fruit and nuts soak up the liquor for a few hours, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Butter and flour four 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, allspice, baking powder, and salt. Add half this mixture to the fruit and nuts and mix well until it coats everything. Set the rest aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and honey until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the remaining flour and blend until all is incorporated.
In a small bowl, whisk together the apricot nectar, heavy cream, and lemon juice. Use a rubber spatula to fold this into the batter until smooth. Pour the batter over the fruit and nuts and mix until fully combined. This takes some muscle and a couple of minutes. Divide the batter among the prepared pans, filling them almost to the top of the pans, as this cake does not rise much. Smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 3 hours, rotating the loaves around the oven halfway through, then check with a toothpick for doneness (it will come out clean). Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans.
While the cakes are cooling, cut four pieces of cheesecloth large enough to wrap around each of the loaves. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup brandy and the triple sec, add the cheesecloth pieces, and let them soak in the liquid.
Once the cakes are cool, wrap each in a piece of the liquor-laced cheesecloth and place back into the loaf pan. Evenly pour any remaining liqueur over the tops, and wrap in plastic wrap or place in a large resealable plastic bag. Tuck away in a corner of a cool basement or the back of the refrigerator.
Allow the fruitcake to sit for a minimum of 4 weeks—it needs time to get dense and hard. Continue to pour more brandy over the top every week, to keep them moist. You can taste the cake after 1 week, but it will only get better with