1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (110 grams) light brown sugar
1/2 cup (110 grams) dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons brandy plus extra for brushing the cake
Juice and zest (outer orange skin) of one orange
Zest (outer yellow skin) of one lemon
3/4 cup (65 grams) ground almonds
1 cup (100 grams) hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, or almonds, chopped
1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) of an assortment of dried fruits (dried apricots, figs, prunes, etc.), candied and chopped mixed peel, and glace cherries (chopped into bite size pieces)
3/4 pound (340 grams) of an assortment of raisins, sultanas, currants, dried cranberries and/or cherries
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Fruit Cake: 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 buttered parchment paper. Also line the sides of the pan with a strip of buttered parchment paper that extends about 2 inches above the pan. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the brandy, juice and zest of the orange, and zest of the lemon. Then fold in the ground almonds, chopped nuts, and all the dried and candied fruits. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder and fold this into the cake batter.
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 the preheated oven for 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) and continue to bake the cake for another 1 hour 30 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. With a skewer poke holes in the top surface of the cake and brush with a little brandy. Wrap the cake thoroughly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil and place in a cake tin or plastic bag. Brush the cake periodically (once or twice a week) with brandy until Christmas. This cake will keep several weeks or it can be frozen.
Serves about 14 to 16 people.
Each person has their own list of 'must have' foods for Christmas. For me, it is this Fruit Cake; that wonderful combination of nuts and dried 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 the cake, over time, with alcohol (usually brandy, sometimes rum). This gives the Fruit Cake a subtle brandy flavor and a moist texture, plus it also allows the cake to be stored for ages and ages. Of course, the step of repeatedly brushing alcohol on the cake 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 comes from Nigel Slater's 'The Kitchen Diaries' and it is by far the best one I have ever made. It is jammed with raisins, currants, dried cranberries, dried figs and prunes, dried apricots, and candied fruit and peel (candied fruit is preserved fruit that has been dipped several times in a concentrated sugar syrup). Nuts are also included as is ground almonds. Do try to make your fruitcake about three to four weeks before Christmas so you can brush it with alcohol several times and allow the flavors to mingle and age. This cake can be frozen so it might be a good idea to make two and then you can freeze one for later in the year.
Finally, if you are an avid fan of Fruit Cakes and want to make them during the rest 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.