Forgot 106 year-old fruitcake, help me make edible fruitcake
August 16, 2017 11:53 PM   Subscribe

The whole interest in the Antarctica fruitcake (Mefi link) made me realize I've never made fruitcake and don't know if I've ever had a good one. The last ask me on this is 7 years old, so what's the best fruitcake recipes today and your tips and tricks?

I heara lot of hate for candied citron which I can't say I've ever found that offensive. As well I'm not afraid to soak it in Brandy or whatever is the recommended liquor.
posted by Carillon to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
No citron-- it overpowers the other flavors. Soaking it in booze makes it go moldy faster. I can memail you my mom's mom's mom's Prohibition-era recipe if you'd like.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:30 AM on August 17, 2017

Alton Brown had a whole episode! The link is to his recipe but I'm pretty sure you can buy the episode from iTunes. He's as nutty as a fruitcake so maybe his is good? I've never had the guts to try it.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:33 AM on August 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

Alton Brown's is excellent. I make it every year at Thanksgiving as gifts for Christmas.
posted by infodiva at 12:49 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I mess around with the exact proportion if dried fruit (no cherries!), works fine.
posted by chiquitita at 1:26 AM on August 17, 2017

If you can buy Kerry Gold butter, you can make this traditional Irish Christmas cake, which is stupendous.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:31 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Emeril's Creole fruitcake is like an almond poundcake, and you candy the fruit yourself by soaking it briefly in sugar-water. I use dried pineapple, dried apricots, and craisins for the fruit. Many people who hate traditional fruitcake love this. I tried subbing orange juice for the Grand Marnier, and can say confidently that the booze adds to the flavor immeasurably.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 4:09 AM on August 17, 2017

Question is - what did you dislike about the fruitcakes you've had? In my experience they vary greatly in terms of fruit to dough ratio, nut content and overall texture. My personal preference are cakes where the fruit content is on the lower side, there is limited citron and some nuts - on the side of fruity cake as opposed to lots of fruit with a little dough around the fruit. So if you can work out what you disliked about the cakes you had people can point you to recipes that avoid those things.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:13 AM on August 17, 2017

I make the Alton Brown one for Christmas as well and it goes over well!
posted by ceramicblue at 4:38 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I find run-of-the-mill grocery store candied fruits to be not very tasty. If you can find a better source, it could improve the result a lot.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:28 AM on August 17, 2017

OMG, all I know is, I always hated the stuff passionately. It was dry and heavy and had these weird, fake-tasting gummy fruitthings in it. Then a couple of thanksgivings back my aunt brought one down from Pittsburgh and I had to taste it to seem polite. I proceeded to eat a TRUCKLOAD of it. All I can say is, it was butterylicious and totally drowned in brandy. I don't know from which vaunted, holy pgh institution she got it, but it'd probably show up in a search because it was really really amazingly good. I would eat the hell out of some of that right now.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:00 AM on August 17, 2017

What does "fruitcake" mean here?

Both the Dan Lepard Dundee cake and the Mary Berry Christmas cake are good, but they're rather different cakes, though would both be dismissed as "fruitcake" by Americans.
posted by hoyland at 6:19 AM on August 17, 2017

I was raised on Australian Country Womens' Association Christmas Cake, which is boozy, rich and glorious. My mum and grandmother always used lots of candied peel (which I assume is the same as citron?) and I love it, it counterbalances the richness beautifully.

Also, I may or may not be tearing up at the airport thanks to Prismatic's beautiful link.
posted by nerdfish at 6:30 AM on August 17, 2017

We also make Christmas gifts of an Alton Brown derived fruitcake. People LOVE it -- to the point that we were kind of unpopular a couple years ago when my recuperation from this forced us to take a year off.

We skip the nuts and increase the ginger, and generally kinda play it by ear on the actual fruit selections based on what's available and tasty. Dates and/or figs make great additions, btw - just make sure to cut them up fine.

(And on that note: it takes longer, but it's ultimately easier to do that with kitchen shears than with a food processor even a traditional knife.)
posted by uberchet at 6:47 AM on August 17, 2017

King Arthur Flour's "Everyone's Favorite Fruitcake" is good. They sell the fruitcake blend year-round. Mom's secret is a month-long booze soak before making the cake. I think the alcohol helps the cake keep longer.
posted by MichelleinMD at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2017

I like Eudora Welty's fruitcake [PDF].
posted by asperity at 7:30 AM on August 17, 2017

The fruit is what makes or breaks a fruitcake. If you use the cheap stuff from the corner grocery store, it's going to be a not-very-good fruitcake.

My fruitcake (which nearly everyone likes -- I have a few friends who don't like any kind of fruit in their baked goods) is a spiced pound cake (I've also added coffee and/or cocoa) base with a modified Alton Brown fruit mix (I don't cook it down, leave out the apricots, and add chopped dried pineapple without soaking) and toasted walnuts and/or pecans depending on what I have in the house. I don't usually soak it in booze -- that tends to obscure the flavors.
posted by jlkr at 7:34 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

blnkfrnk I'd love to see that recipe as well!

Overall I'm just interested in in a spicy fruity cake that isn't overly dry. Thanks for all the resources, I'm excited to make and try a bunch of these!
posted by Carillon at 8:34 AM on August 17, 2017

If you want to read a long nerdy conversation about fruitcake with various links to recipes, try this. (Unfortunately the one linked in the main post is dead, but on this site, the comments are the point.)
posted by restless_nomad at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2017

I've made Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake a number of times. The flavor improves a lot if you store it a few weeks before serving. Don't overfill the pan, or the cake might be undercooked in the center. (My 10" loaf pan must not be as wide as his.)
posted by wryly at 9:04 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am not well-versed in the popularly accepted definitions of/semantic differences between fruitcakes and Christmas puddings, but Nigella Lawson's Ultimate Christmas Pudding is amazing and definitely fits the definition of 'spicy fruity cake that isn't overly dry'. It is 100% worth doing the legwork to find the Pedro Ximenez sherry, which is unlike anything else and gives the pudding much of its incredibly deep, rich, complex flavor.

(To accommodate a vegetarian family member I skipped the suet and used frozen, grated vegetable shortening instead. It came out just fine.)
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2017

I linked this from a post on the front page, because y'all have provided recipes and that Australian story.

If you want to try some fruitcake that isn't the boxed kind you get in Walgreens in December, order a tinned plum pudding. I looked at fruit cakes on amazon; they seem to be all shipped in cellophane in a box. A canned cake sounds weird, but fruitcake/ plum pudding is dense and moist, and canned means it will not be dried out. Open it up, put it in a container and add brandy or rum or whisky and let it get soaked in. You can do this over a couple days in the fridge. If you are my Mom, before serving, add a liberal sprinkling of Everclear 190 proof grain alcohol, light the thing, and bring a celebratory fireball to the table. If you add enough Everclear, it will slosh onto the tablecloth and set it afire. I don't recommend that last bit, but it was a memorable Christmas.

Along the alcohol theme, try a topping of hard sauce - powdered sugar(a lot), butter (1/2 stick, add powdered sugar until it's fairly stiff), brandy (it thins it a lot, so add judiciously).
posted by theora55 at 9:33 AM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I got a longing for fruit cake last year and did a lot of research on recipes. That's how I discovered Jamaican Black Cake. I made a big one just before Christmas and I still have some. It just gets better with time. I can't find the exact recipe I used but it was similar to this one. My fruit has been soaking in rum and wine for the last several months in preparation for the next one.
posted by night_train at 2:54 PM on August 17, 2017

My grandmother's recipe (which I have lost, alas) was a dark one with molasses, finely ground fruit so it spread in the batter and wasn't gummy lumps. We made it around Thanksgiving and wrapped it in cheesecloth and tin foil, put it in a cookie tin with a lid in a dark cool place, and basted it with booze at least once a week until xmas rolled around. It was moist, fruity, spicy, and delicious. I used to make it in old coffee cans to give as gifts. I wish I had that recipeā€”it was an all-day production but it was so so good. I hope you enjoy whatever you wind up making.
posted by MovableBookLady at 5:47 PM on August 17, 2017

My great-aunt's recipe is a light cake. Light as in color, because the batter is butter and eggs and lemon zest, with just enough flour to make it stick. This is combined with candied fruit, raisins, and pecans that have been thoroughly soaked in Grand Marnier. Wrap tightly and let rest for at least a month, so the alcohol from the fruit has time to penetrate the cake. Is greatly anticipated by family and friends.
posted by Princess Leopoldine Grassalkovich nee Esterhazy at 6:20 PM on August 17, 2017

Christmas is incomplete for me without my mother's fruitcake. Well, it's what we call 'fruitcake' in my family but growing up, I learned that most people think the term means something else, something nasty, you know what I mean -- the boozey block with the bits of candied red, yellow and green 'fruit' (which are not included in my mom's fruitcake). Hers is actually called Christmas Tree Loaf -- there, I posted the recipe, because of this question. This cake is made with chocolate chips, nuts, and dates; plus, instead of those mystery bits of red, green and yellow, marischino cherries.
posted by Rash at 9:21 PM on August 17, 2017

Oh hey, this is not the alcohol-steeped Christmas cake people are talking about, but for a spicy fruity cake that isn't overly dry, you want a tea loaf! It's not an instant-gratification sort of cake - you soak the dried fruit in tea overnight before getting started, and once it's baked, the flavours mature over the next day or two (it's good fresh from the oven but great two days later).

Here's the one I make, adapted from a recipe in Favourite Lakeland Recipes by Carole Gregory.

The evening before, mix:

120g raisins
120g sultanas (this Wikipedia article on raisins explains the British distinction between raisins and sultanas)
120g currants
90g chopped dried apricots
170g dark brown muscovado sugar

in a large bowl, and pour over enough strong black tea to cover it - I use about 300ml of Earl Grey (because I like the hint of citrus), made by pouring boiling water over two teabags and letting it steep for five minutes. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Let it cool, cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge overnight.

By the next day, all or most of the liquid should have been absorbed. Stir to break the fruit up, then mix in:

1 egg, beaten
25g butter, melted

In a medium bowl, mix together:

250g plain flour (US all-purpose should be fine)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (NB a British teaspoon is 5ml)
A tablespoon (15ml) mixed spice

Stir into the fruit mixture, a third at a time.

You should now have a quite wet, pourable batter. Pour into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake for an hour at 160C. Test with a skewer - if it comes out cleanish (the fruit will leave the skewer sticky, but you shouldn't see unbaked batter) you're done; if not, give it a bit more time. I often need 1h15.

Let it cool in the tin for half an hour, then transfer to a cooling rack. Put it in an airtight container when it's cool and leave it till the day after tomorrow, while enjoying how delicious your kitchen smells.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:59 AM on August 19, 2017

I emailed it to the poster, but here's my mom's very old recipe that got rewritten during Prohibition: dropbox link. I can provide advice if you wish to hear about my experiences making it, and if you're in SF or NYC and need to find candied fruit.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:45 AM on August 28, 2017

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