Saturday, 12 November 2011

Light Christmas Fruitcake

For as long as I can remember as a child, my mom made this cake most years at Christmas, at least until I took over making it myself. I love this cake, not only because it is delicious but because of the lovely flavour of nostalgia.

This is the first time I have made this cake in about 10 years. It has gotten to be so very hard to find decent quality fruit to go into it. The stuff at Bulk Barn doesn't cut it, and as for the stuff at any regular grocery store around here, forget it. Fortunately I have discovered that there is a shop in the St. Laurence Market that has imported Italian candied fruits and peels, and I get my brother-in-law to pick some up for me. Hurray! Fruitcake again.

NOTE: When I cut the cake, it became clear that it had been somewhat overbaked. My mother said, "Oh yes, that's right. The time written down on the original recipe was too long." Thanks, Ma! Now you tell me. But I obviously never made that adjustment myself so what can I say. Baking time has been adjusted now.

ANOTHER NOTE: in 2012 I baked the cake in two loaf pans of differing sizes and a smallish bundt pan. In spite of dividing the recipe into three rather lopsided parts, they all baked in the same time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, just 15 minutes shy of the expected 2 1/2 hours for the full recipe. When I think about it, this isn't so strange. Because it is normally baked in a tube pan, changing the pans did not actually move the centre(s) of the cake all that much closer to the edge(s) of the pan(s), so the time change was minimal. Okie-dokie, then.

a large 10" cake
4 hours - 1 1/2 hours prep time

Light Fruitcake

Mix the Fruit:
225 grams (1/2 pound) blanched almonds
450 grams (1 pound) candied citron peel
450 grams (1 pound) red glacé cherries
225 grams (1/2 pound) golden raisins (sultanas)
1/3 cup soft unbleached flour

To blanch the almonds, drop them into boiling water to cover for one minute. Drain them, and pinch each one out of their papery covery as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Mix all the fruit in a very large mixing bowl, then stir in the flour until the fruit is evenly coated with it.

Make the Batter:
3 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1/3 cup good sherry
1/4 cup buttermilk or milk
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Measure the flour, and mix in the baking powder and salt. Set aside. Butter a 10" tube pan, and line the bottom with a circle of buttered parchment paper. Dust the cake pan with flour. Preheat the oven to 275°F.

Cream the butter, and beat in the sugar and the egg yolks, one or two at a time, until quite light and fluffy. (Put the whites aside in another mixing bowl.) Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts. Mix in the sherry, then half the flour. Mix in the milk and the remaining flour.

Pour this batter over the fruit and mix them together.

Beat the egg whites, with the cream of tartar, until stiff. Fold about 1/3 of the egg whites gently into the cake, then fold in the remaing 2/3 egg whites.

Scoop the batter into the prepared cake pan, smoothing it out and taking care not to leave large gaps in the batter.

Bake the cake for about 2 1/2 hours, until done. You will need to cover it with foil after about an hour, when it will be mostly as brown as you would like it. I would start checking it for doneness at the 2 hour mark.

Allow the cake to cool, and remove it from the pan. Wrap it in cheesecloth, and brush it all over with sherry. Wrap it in foil and keep it in a cool, dark spot until wanted. You can take it out and brush it with more sherry whenever you feel so inclined; no-one will complain.


LkM Nutrition said...

Where in St.Lawrence Market do you find the peels? I usually get some from the health food store, but they are pricey and not too many in the package. I would love to send my husband to get them, but need clear instructions - otherwise it's hard to find a place in the market!
Thanks! Laurie

Ferdzy said...

Hm,, how to describe it? It's in the basement, for starters. When you go down the central stairs, veer to the left and go back towards the front of the building - towards the north-west corner, I think. There's some kind of Italian deli (?) type place in there, and it has the stuff open in boxes, or did last year anyway. That place is such a rabbit-warren I don't think I can tell you any more precisely than that. This is fairly standard preserved fruits, quite cheap but they definitely have a lighter hand with the dyes and preservatives than most of the stuff you see.

Cryt said...

My sister in law & i also just made fruit cake & couldn't imagine putting the peels from the grocery store for all the preservatives and extra sugar added! So we decided to make our own, quite the job for the amount we needed but well worth it...we think, guess we won't know for sure until Christmas when we taste it! But we did decide to save time next year that we'd keep our peels throughtout the year (peel & take off white pithy part, dice & throw in a container to freeze). I hope it works b/c it'll cut down on the work at time of making cake & still give us satisfaction for the end product!!

Ferdzy said...

Goodness, Cryt, that's ambitious! I'd love to hear how it turns out. Although I'm not sure I could ever get myself quite that organized.

LkM Nutrition said...

Thanks for the general directions! :)

morv said...

I love the soun of this recipe but I would like to bake it in 3 smaller loaf pans to give as gifts. Can anyone suggest how long it wool take to bake this way?

Ferdzy said...

Morv, it may depend on the exact configuration of the pans (eg. deep and narrow or round and shallow) but I would be inclined to start checking in as little as an hour. Use the old toothpick test. (Insert one in the middle, see if it comes out clean.) My guess is just over an hour. I doubt it would take an hour and a half.