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The Fruitcake Topic


Suvir Saran
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Well today I got to welcome into my home two very good commercially made fruitcakes. Brought by a very good friend who knows how to choose a good fruitcake. Both will be stabbed unmercifully and doused in spirits and allowed to age for some time, say an hour or two. Okay, okay I'll have a small slice from one to welcome in the new year before I pack them away until they reach their peak of perfection or I decide I must have another slice.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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This thread has been so much fun to read!  I want to make a fruitcake again now. The last time was about 10 years ago, for a bake sale. I labeled it "Not Your Grandma's Fruitcake".   It was a light colored one, jamb-packed with dried pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts, dried apricots, and lots and lots of rum.

I had a difficult time parting with them as I took them into the bake sale area.  :raz:  They did bring in a pretty penny, but still, that was hard.

 

  I think I need to make that again. Thanks for reviving the idea!  Happy New Year's to all!

 

Andrea

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-Andrea

 

A 'balanced diet' means chocolate in BOTH hands. :biggrin:

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LOVE fruitcake.  Every year, I make a white one -- really a luscious pound cake stuffed with candied lemon, orange and grapefruit peels, and almonds.  Even for people who don't like fruitcake, it's really good.  Especially nice with afternoon tea.  Or breakfast.  

 

My aunt used to make a fantastic dark fruitcake, really just a pile of glazed fruit and brazil nuts held together by a bit of dough.  Every year I swear I'll make it and so far, I've failed.  Got so far as to buy the brazil nuts this year. Oh well. But I dream about it.    

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image.jpg

There was just enough brandy left...the devil whispered in my ear.

image.jpg

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Apparently it is all in one's perspective.

One of my neighbors has a visitor from England - Norfolk to be exact "near but not in King's Lynn" who has been here since before Thanksgiving - who wonders why Americans restrict the making and consuming of fruitcakes to the Christmas holidays. 

She says most wedding cakes in England, at least in the places she has lived, are fruitcakes and they will keep for at least four months or longer if dosed with liquor.

 

She says they enjoy fruitcakes all year - different varieties but still fruitcake whatever the ingredients.  She says her mum always has some dried or candied fruits "marinating" because it doesn't dry out and get hard when stored in liquid. 

She also says the "mixed peel" available there is somewhat different from the usual stuff seen here and the dried black currants her mum use for baking are larger, softer and have a different flavor from the "currants" we see here.  Sultanas, large golden raisins, are more common than the "black" raisins that are more common here. 

 

I grew up in a family that favored fruitcakes all year and there were always several tins with interesting contents - all on high shelves out of the reach of inquisitive children.  These were served at tea time, thin slices that could be anointed with soft butter. 

I can't remember a time when there wasn't at least one Dundee cake, a Madeira cake and possibly a Bishop's cake and usually there were multiples, at various stages of "aging" with various spirit flavorings.

My great grandmother was especially partial to one she called Pepper cake, which was quite spicy and loaded with candied ginger. 

The "seedy cake" also sometimes contained fruit.

 

So consider spreading the fruitcake season into the rest of the year and try some different varieties.

I can recomment HIGHLY, the paper cake molds now available in reasonable amounts at Amazon.  I have several sizes of loaf "pans" and the cakes come out clean and easy. 

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Apparently it is all in one's perspective.

One of my neighbors has a visitor from England - Norfolk to be exact "near but not in King's Lynn" who has been here since before Thanksgiving - who wonders why Americans restrict the making and consuming of fruitcakes to the Christmas holidays. 

She says most wedding cakes in England, at least in the places she has lived, are fruitcakes and they will keep for at least four months or longer if dosed with liquor.

 

 

 

 

When I was little, in the Pac NW, the wedding cakes were always fruitcakes -- which was why you could put a piece under your pillow after the wedding to dream about your own future bridegroom, wouldn't work too well with a fluffy frosted cake.  I don't know exactly when wedding cakes changed from fruitcakes to baking powder cakes.  

 

But perhaps I should use your British idea of having fruitcakes year round and make that cake with the Brazil nuts.  Would be good with tea all through the cold Toronto winter!  Yum.

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I have been making fruit cakes for decades - my grandmother made inspirational stuff . . . .

here's my advice for the starting fruit cake baker:   use the oldest recipe you can find.
there's a really simple reason:  fruitcakes are not fast food and adapting them  to "modern times" and "instant prep/cook" does not really work out well - aka "DIY doorstop"

they require a large number of ingredients, most everything is sticky & gooey,  the batter is thick and hard to stir/mix, they take a long time to bake.

costing out this year's fruit cake - near $30 in ingredients for a single 10" tube pan fruit cake.  which explains why a $7 store bought Blue Light Special does not actually taste so good.....

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Every British holiday except Parkin contains dried fruit,  my Scottish mother in law say it sometimes is like  everything can and will be celebrated with some form of  fruitcake.

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Cheese is you friend, Cheese will take care of you, Cheese will never betray you, But blue mold will kill me.

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One of the reasons that I began candying my own citrus peel, ginger and etc., many years ago, was the lack of realy quality ingredients for the "fruit" cakes that I prefer.

I could get good dried fruits but glacé fruits that were reasonably priced for use in baking were virtually impossible to find here in the U.S., even in large cities.  Occasionally one could find a source but the products were so expensive that it made baking with them unaffordable.

 

The usual supermarket offering for "fruitcake mix" might as well be colored plastic for all the flavor it has.

 

For pineapple, I buy the best unsweetened dried slices I can find and steam them until they are translucent and then allow them to dry so they become "candied" with their natural residual sugar.  The flavor is so much better than the commercial stuff.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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The recipe you refer to has an oven temperature of 275°F (135°C). Is this for a standard oven? I use a bakers convection oven where I normally subtract around 20°C from a standard recipe temperature and was wondering if your recipe already had the compensation built in? I am also at sea level. John.

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Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Every British holiday except Parkin contains dried fruit,  my Scottish mother in law say it sometimes is like  everything can and will be celebrated with some form of  fruitcake.

My great grandmother and one of my great aunts used to argue about the relative merits of Barm Brack (great grandmother) and Bara Brith (Aunt Maude, who had lived for a time in Wales) and how they differed - one "regular" flour, one "wholemeal" flour. (after 65 years I don't recall which was which).

And sometimes we did get these treats as long as the cook was willing or one of the girls she was "training up" could bake one or more.

 

My grandpa always insisted that the cook was "not to be annoyed" by special requests when she had enough to do with the usual things.  As there were around 12 to 15 adults and 9 children living in the house, plus the folks in the smaller houses who usually shared meals, the cook did have a monumental job, even with the women who also worked in the kitchen.  Sometimes one of my aunts would help and my grandmother did some when there were a lot of visitors during the holidays.  And of course me, being the only girl in the herd of children, got to "help" in the kitchen from time to time - if being underfoot was at all helpful...

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Andie, I suspect there are as many recipes for barmbrack and bara brith (and Yorkshire brack, and probably other, similar beasts) as there are great-grandmothers and great aunts.

 

I've had a barmbrack which is probably a closer relative to a bread than a cake - very good, though - while this recipe is closer to one I've made for Yorkshire brack.  The soak overnight in strong tea (you could use ginger beer/ale) results in a very heavy cake which feels undercooked even when it isn't - this is a good characteristic, in my view; I'm a fan of un(der)-cooked fruit cake.

 

The tradition of fruitcakes for weddings survives in the Antipodes.  A traditional wedding cake is made in two or three layers and the bride and groom keep the top layer to have on their anniversary a year later.  Didn't work for us, though - ours went mouldy, which was a great shame since the cake was a brilliant one on the day of the wedding.  Not boozy enough, perhaps.

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Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
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After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

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I believe fruitcake for weddings is an ancient Roman custom, if I recall correctly.  The groom would eat some fruitcake and break the remainder over the bride's head.  Romans were in Britain for a long, long time.

 

It's not likely I'll get married again, but if I do, fruitcake is a consideration...but please, no dried figs.

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When I was little, in the Pac NW, the wedding cakes were always fruitcakes -- which was why you could put a piece under your pillow after the wedding to dream about your own future bridegroom, wouldn't work too well with a fluffy frosted cake.  I don't know exactly when wedding cakes changed from fruitcakes to baking powder cakes.  

 

 

Now that I think about, it was the GROOM'S cake that was the fruitcake.  And no one ate it, we took a small piece home -- wrapped in foil and then in white net tied with ribbon -- to put under our pillows.  The man we dreamed of while the cake was under the pillow would be our future husband. 

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Wasn't Kate and Prince William's wedding cake at least part fruitcake?  A layer or something or else there were some separate small fruitcakes.  I think that's probably what made it possible for some to be auctioned several years later.

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I think the historical family ties to fruitcake is fascinating. My Grandmother, Mildred Ross, was a very good baker and candy maker. Her family, the Slayton's, trekked from Missouri over the Oregon Trail ca. 1865 to stake a land claim in Prineville, Oregon. I remember my Father telling me how his Mother would send him fruitcake while he was fighting in Europe during the War.

 

Great Aunt Bertie May Pink is the woman I look to for inspiration when it comes to fruitcake. Bertie was my Grandfather Ralph Pink's Sister. We're not sure, but we think their last name "Pink" was actually an abbreviation of a longer Russian name. We know they left Russia in the 1880's to escape the persecution of Jews by the Russian government at the time. The Pink's eventually landed in sheep country in Southern Idaho, building a wool and pelt trading company in Twin Falls, Idaho. I've made many a fruitcake over the years, but I just can't come close to the cakes that Aunt Bertie made. And I suspect she kept that bottle of left over brandy for a little nip here and there.

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I think the historical family ties to fruitcake is fascinating. My Grandmother, Mildred Ross, was a very good baker and candy maker. Her family, the Slayton's, trekked from Missouri over the Oregon Trail ca. 1865 to stake a land claim in Prineville, Oregon. I remember my Father telling me how his Mother would send him fruitcake while he was fighting in Europe during the War.

 

Great Aunt Bertie May Pink is the woman I look to for inspiration when it comes to fruitcake. Bertie was my Grandfather Ralph Pink's Sister. We're not sure, but we think their last name "Pink" was actually an abbreviation of a longer Russian name. We know they left Russia in the 1880's to escape the persecution of Jews by the Russian government at the time. The Pink's eventually landed in sheep country in Southern Idaho, building a wool and pelt trading company in Twin Falls, Idaho. I've made many a fruitcake over the years, but I just can't come close to the cakes that Aunt Bertie made. And I suspect she kept that bottle of left over brandy for a little nip here and there.

I don't think there really is such a thing as "left over brandy" - - -  :rolleyes:

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"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I don't hate fruitcake, but I come from a long line of non-bakers and don't remember EVER eating fruitcake or being gifted with one. About thirty or forty years ago I baked my first and only fruit cake from a recipe in an old tattered book of uncertain provenance called Party Foods Book; I no longer have the book, just the page with the cake recipe. It calls for "butter or margarine" and "sour milk or buttermilk," so I'm thinking it comes from that transitional time when processed foods started appearing.

The cake was called Old Kentucky Black Fruit Cake and contained no neon fruit at all, just real dried fruits and candied orange peel. The recipe says the cake keeps indefinitely and suggests periodic soaking with wine, but I don't see why Kentucky bourbon wouldn't be nice. Whatever dried fruits (black and white figs are the main ones suggested) the baker had available and whatever nuts were also at hand seem to be the way to go. It does not specify any soaking of the fruit before using. Actually it was very good; dense and healthy. I never made it again but I have no idea why.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm making a fruitcake that I've soaked twice in the past 3 weeks. I plan to soak it one last time next week. When should I eat it after the last soaking? Would a few days or a week suffice? 

The longer the better.  After three days I'd say it will still be pretty stiff alcohol but by week three it would be better.  Some of the fruitcakes we've been discussing here have been aging nearly 10 years.

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  • 11 months later...

I have a general question about fruitcake texture: Over the years, I have made many different recipes for fruitcake. All the recipes contain dried fruits and nuts. Some recipes seem to produce a dense loaf that can be easily sliced into thin slices, while other recipes produce a loaf that is full of moist fruit and have a moist crumb, but crumble when sliced, necessitating that one cut thick slices for serving. I can't seem to figure out what determines the final texture of the cake. Any ideas what makes a cake that can be thinly sliced and what makes the type that must be served in large chunks?

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fruitcakes can be moister or dryer - adding to that,,, they have more or less "stuff" scattered through the dough.

 

a moist fruitcake with lots of chunky stuff is less good at thin slices.

a drier cake - lots of flour in the recipe - with minimal fruits/nuts is apt to slice thin without breaking.

 

leavening is another thing - baking soda makes for denser than baking powder; or a combo of both.

 

I have a recipe that produces a 6 pound (96 ounce) fruitcake; uses 1.5 cups ~ 7.5 ounces of flour - and a cup of booze.

it's moist; you kinda' hafta' bake the recipe and see if you like it - "predicting" can be tricky because fruitcakes also use butter and eggs and sugar and and and  ... which all affect it's texture.

Edited by AlaMoi (log)
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It has been eons so I don't have the recipe at hand but it was a fruitcake packed to the gills with fruits and some nuts AND it could be sliced very thin. The key in my thinking is that the fruit was soaked for 2 months in booze prior so it was soft enough to allow that thin slicing without tearing the cake. 

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