1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (210 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature (165 grams without shells)
3 tablespoons (35 grams) alcohol (Grand Marnier, brandy, sherry, rum, etc.) plus you'll need extra for brushing the cake
Juice and zest (outer orange skin) of one orange
Zest (outer yellow skin) of one lemon
1 cup (100 grams) almonds, walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
2 1/4 pounds (1 kilogram) of an assortment of dried (apricots, figs, prunes, raisins, sultanas, currants, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.) and candied fruit (mixed peel and/or cherries), all chopped into bite sized pieces
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (75 grams) finely ground almonds
1 teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
Fruit Cake: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan with a removable bottom. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Also line the sides of the pan with a strip of parchment paper that extends about 2 inches (5 cm) above the rim of the pan.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground almonds, salt, and baking powder.
In another large bowl place the dried and candied fruits, along with the chopped nuts. Remove about 3-4 tablespoons of the flour mixture and add it to this mixture, tossing well to coat all the fruits and nuts.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of your bowl as needed. Add the alcohol, orange juice, orange zest and lemon zest. Then beat or fold in the chopped nuts and all the dried and candied fruits. Then beat or fold in the flour mixture.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and, if desired, decorate the top of the cake with blanched almonds. Place the spring form pan on a larger baking sheet. Bake in your preheated oven for 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and continue to bake the cake for about 80-90 minutes or until a long skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Then, with a skewer, poke holes in the top surface of the cake and liberally brush with alcohol (brandy, Grand Marnier, sherry, rum or whiskey). Wrap the cake thoroughly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and place in a cake tin or plastic bag. Store in a cool dry place. (If you live in a warm climate I find it best to store the cake in the refrigerator.) Brush the cake periodically (once or twice a week for about two to three weeks) with alcohol. This cake will keep several weeks or it can be frozen.
Serves about 16 people.
Bakers tend to have a list of 'must haves' they want to bake for Christmas. For me, I always like to make this Fruit Cake. I just love the combination of nuts and dried and candied fruits with barely enough cake batter to hold it all together. If you have ever made a British Fruit Cake you know that what really sets this cake apart is how we repeatedly 'feed' (brush) the cake with alcohol over several weeks. This gives the Fruit Cake a subtle alcohol flavor and a moist texture, plus it also acts as a preservative so the cake can be stored for ages and ages. Of course, the step of repeatedly brushing the cake with alcohol means we have to make it well in advance of Christmas. But is that so bad? With all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, doing our baking several weeks in advance can only be a good thing.
This Fruit Cake recipe is adapted from Nigel Slater's excellent 'The Kitchen Diaries' and it is by far the best one I have ever made. It is jammed with dried fruits (raisins, currants, dried cranberries and/or cherries, dried figs, prunes, dried apricots, etc.) and candied fruit and/or peel. If you're not familiar with candied fruit, it's preserved fruit that has been dipped several times in a concentrated sugar syrup. Nuts are also included as is ground almonds (you can buy prepackaged ground almonds or you can just take blanched almonds and process them until finely ground in your food processor).
Finally, if you are an avid fan of Fruit Cakes and want to make them other times of the year, it might be a good idea to pick up extra candied fruit during the holiday season as it can be hard to find once the Christmas season ends.