Fruitcake - Try It - You'll Like It

Canadian Living

Fruitcake - Try It - You'll Like It

It was Rose Murray's job on December 13th at the Canadian Sweet Treats: Food Experts Debate the Classics event at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) to shed light on the delights of fruitcakes. If anyone in Canada knows fruitcake, it's Rose. In her first of ten best selling cookbook, The Christmas Cookbook she paid homage to this rich mix of fruit, nuts, booze, butter and sugar with nine, yes nine recipes for fruitcake.

Among Rose's ongoing repertoire is a lovely light white fruitcake, more cake than fruit and one that appeals to people even if they think they don't like fruitcake. As for these people who distain fruitcake, there's a distinct possibility they've never tasted a good homemade fruitcake with fresh quality ingredients. I liken them to people who say  they don't like beef when all they've tasted is tripe. (sorry all tripe lovers out there). Or people who've heard all the fruitcake jokes and think it's easier to say no than to try something new. Plus, there are fruitcakes, and fruitcakes.

Having a lovely moist fruitcake handy to cut when there's company is makes entertaining much easier over the holidays. Here's Rose's recipe, the one served midway through the debate on Sunday, and the pieces of cake disappeared in a trice - even before the lemon squares. Skeptics were convinced - fruitcake has a place in the panoply of Canadian baking icons. Begone fruitcake prejudices! See below for two recipes, Rose's Light Orange Almond Fruitcake, and Tropical White Fruitcake from Canadian Living Magazine.

Light Orange Almond Fruitcake

  • 3 cups (750 mL) mixed candied fruit
  • 2 cups (500 mL) golden raisins
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) halved candied cherries
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) coarsely chopped candied pineapple
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) finely chopped blanched almonds
  • 1 cup (250 mL) candied citron peel
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) coarsely grated orange rind
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) almond extract
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) orange liqueur or orange juice .

Grease two 9- x 5-inch (2 L) loaf pans; line bases and sides with double thickness of parchment paper. Grease paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine mixed candied fruit, raisins, cherries, pineapple, almonds and citron peel; toss with 1/2 cup (125 mL)  of the flour and set aside. Stir together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in eggs, one at a time, orange rind and almond extract, beating well. Add flour mixture alternately with liqueur, making three additions of dry and two of liqueur and mixing just until flour is incorporated. Fold in fruit mixture. Scrape into prepared pans, smoothing tops.

Tap pans gently on counter. Set a shallow baking dish on the bottom rack of the oven; fill halfway with boiling water. Bake cakes on the centre rack in a 250°F (120°C) oven for 2-1/2 hours or until cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean, covering loosely with foil if cakes begin to crack. Let cakes cool completely in their pans on racks. (Cakes can be wrapped in cheesecloth moistened with brandy or another spirit, then waxed paper, then foil and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks.)

Makes 2 cakes, about 90 small pieces.

Tip: It's easy to slice fruitcake if you refrigerate it a few hours ahead. Always slice with a very sharp knife and wipe the blade with a damp cloth between slices. If you have an electric knife, it works well. 

Tropical White Fruitcake

To get myself in the mood for the debate on Sunday, I set myself the goal of making a fruitcake, carrot pudding, a pan of lemon squares, and of course, butter tarts. I looked to one of Canadian Living Magazine's most beautiful light fruit cakes —coincidentally echoing the choice of a light cake, like  Rose's. However the mix of fruit and nubblies in the batter are different, as is liqueur, and the shape of the cake.

Many years ago Rose and I worked out a way of baking a fruit cake in a 13- x 9- inch ((3.5 L) metal cake pan that offers the baker the opportunity to cut the cake crosswise into 6  bars. The bars are a snap to slice crosswise into a neat little slice that won't overwhelm anybody. And a whole bar, wrapped nicely, is a perfect gift to a friend or family member who might not have had time to make a cake but still yearns for a taste of homemade. 

  • 2 cups (500 mL) shredded coconut
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) chopped dried papayas or apricots
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) chopped dried mango
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) chopped candied pineapple
  • 1 cups (250 mL) golden raisins
  • 1 cup (250 mL) halved candied red cherries 
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) white rum or coconut rum
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups (500 mL) slivered blanched almonds
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) corn syrup 8 oz (250 g)

Marzipan Icing:

  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) butter
  • 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) vanilla 

In a large bowl, combine the coconut, papaya, mango, pineapple, raisins, cherries and 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the rum. Cover and let stand for 1 day, stirring occasionally when convenient.

Line 13- x 9-inch (3.5 L) metal cake pan with 2 layers of parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In separate large bowl, beat butter with sugar until light; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in half of the flour mixture, 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the rum and remaining flour mixture. Spoon fruit mixture and almonds over the batter; stir just enough to combine. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth the top and tap the pan lightly on the counter to eliminate air bubbles. Set a shallow baking pan on the bottom rack of oven; pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up side. Bake the cake in the centre of a 250°F (120°C) oven until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

Check the cake at the 1-1/2 and 2-hour mark and cover the surface of the cake lightly with foil if there is any sign of cracking or darkening beyond pale gold. Let the cake cook in the pan on a rack. Place a cutting board larger than the cake over the top of the pan. Turn the cake over; peel off the paper. Soak a double thickness (or 2 thicknesses) of 28-inch (70 cm) x 12-inch (30 cm) cheesecloth in remaining rum.

Place a length of foil sufficient to generously enclose the cake, then an equal length of plastic wrap and finally the cheesecloth on the work surface. Supporting the cake, place it on the cheesecloth. Wrap with cheesecloth, plastic wrap, then foil. Place on a supportive cutting board or tray. Refrigerate for at least a week, or for up to 3 months.( To speed up the ripening process, unwrap the cake after a few days and sprinkle generously with additional rum. Rewrap and repeat as desired.) Freeze for longer storage.

Icing: In a bowl, beat the butter until light. Beat in the icing sugar, cream and vanilla. Unwrap the cake and, supporting its length, transfer to a board or rimmed baking sheet as close to the size of the cake as possible. Brush the top with corn syrup. On a board, roll out the marzipan to fit the top of the cake. Place over the cake and press gently to stick the marzipan to the surface. Trim the edges if desired, and patch the edge if needs be. If you wait to trim the edges before slicing and serving, you can do two things at once. Check that the cake is as delicious as you anticipated while rewarding yourself with a few of the slim trimmings. 

Spread with icing. Cover cakes lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate in airtight container until cold and firm, about 1 day. Cut crosswise into 6 bars, each about 2-inches (5 cm) wide. Wrap separately if desired. Cut bars crosswise to serve.

Makes about 72 to 90 slices, depending on thickness.

Tip: The riper, the colder, the easier it is to cut a fruitcake. Have a clean damp cloth handy to wipe the knife between cuts.


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Fruitcake - Try It - You'll Like It