“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.
In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
~ Julia Child
The Great Fruitcake Debate
The ultimate fruitcake—no, I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about that ubiquitous dense cake filled with nuts and dried fruit which materializes everywhere around the holiday season. The debate about fruitcake seems to know no neutrality: most either love it or despise it. I once fell into the latter camp—the fruitcakes of my youth were all dark, dried-out spice cakes containing bits of strangely coloured unidentifiable things. I could never abide it. Naturally, I concluded that I detested all fruitcake. But I was wrong.
Some years ago, I stumbled upon a tantalizing recipe for white fruitcake, which I had never heard of before. It contained some of my favourite ingredients—orange zest, pecans and Apricot Brandy—and used only naturally dried fruits. Best of all, it had no trace of those fake cherries dyed an unearthly shade of green. I decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did—I was instantly converted.
Apricot Brandy White Fruitcake Recipe
I honed and perfected my own recipe for Apricot Brandy White Fruitcake (posted at the bottom of this page) by baking oodles and oodles of test cakes. My partner was one of my test cake tasters and I have more than a sneaking suspicion that he might have been guilty of finding minor things to “improve”, simply so I’d have to bake another test cake, which, of course, he would then have to “test”.
My Apricot Brandy White Fruitcake contains dried Montmorency cherries, dried apricots, dried cranberries and candied pineapple, all soaked in plenty of Grand Marnier and Amaretto. The booze-soaked fruit gets added to a rich, buttery, cake batter laced with Apricot Brandy, freshly grated orange zest and lemon zest, toasted pecans, pure almond extract and generous amounts of my delicious homemade candied orange peel. Already to-die-for-delicious straight out of the oven, my cake undergoes one final step: I wrap it in booze-soaked cheesecloth for that extra je ne sais quoi…
I have to admit, I quite enjoy drinking… ha…ha… I mean, sampling, the cake batter. It is utterly delicious. And, oh, the heavenly fragrance that permeates our home as the cake bakes! A person could live happily ever after off the cake fumes alone…
The real recipe for my Apricot Brandy White Fruitcake is below, but for anyone wanting a laugh, check out this fruitcake recipe (versions of which have been kicking around the internet for years):
The Ultimate Fruitcake
All of this talk of dry fruitcake makes me pine for the days of yore when I would help grandma make Christmas cake. Here’s the recipe (as best as I can remember it, it’s a little fuzzy):
You’ll need the following: a cup of water, a cup of sugar, a cup of flour, four large eggs, two cups dried fruit, a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of salt, a cup of brown sugar, lemon juice, nuts, and a bottle of whiskey. NOTE: Whiskey may be replaced with your favorite swill beverage. Being of Scottish ancestry, me and grandma naturally used Scotch.
Sample the whiskey to check for quality.
Take a large bowl. Check the whiskey again. To be sure it is the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer, beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again.
Make sure the whiskey is still okay. Cry another tup. Turn off the mixer. Break two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaters, pry it loose with a drewscviver.
Sample the whiskey to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who cares?
Check the whiskey. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar or something. Whatever you can find.
Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees. Don’t forget to beat off the turner.
Throw the bowl out of the window, check the whiskey again and go to bed.
It’s bad, I know. But it still makes me laugh! :))
Apricot Brandy White Fruit Cake Recipe
• 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
• 1/2 cup candied pineapple, chopped
• 1/2 cup candied orange peel, diced (recipe follows)
• 1 cup dried cherries, halved (not candied cherries)
• 1/2 cup dried cranberries
• 1 cup lightly toasted pecan halves
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 4 free-range eggs
• grated zest of 1 orange
• grated zest of 1 lemon
• 2 tsp almond extract
• 1/3 cup Apricot Brandy (or combination of Apricot Brandy, Grand Marnier and Amaretto)
• Approximately 1/3 cup Apricot Brandy (or any preferred combination of the above liqueurs) for marinating dried fruit
Candied Orange Peel
• 2 oranges
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup water
A day or two before you bake the cake, prepare the candied orange peel.
The day before baking:
- Soak apricots, cherries and cranberries overnight or up to 24 hours in approximately 1/3 cup of Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Apricot Brandy (or any combination thereof). Stir occasionally.
- Lightly toast pecans for about 6-8 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Cool and store in container until ready to use in the recipe.
- Rinse cheesecloth well in very hot water (to remove impurities) and hang to dry.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Before beginning to prepare the cake, drain the marinated fruit through a sieve.
Butter two loaf pans and line each with two layers of parchment paper. I run one strip widthwise and one strip lengthwise. Wrap a piece of foil around the bottom and outside of the pan to insulate the cake during its long baking process.
Sift 1½ cups flour with baking powder. Set aside remaining flour to toss with dried fruit.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the orange and lemon zest. Add flour alternately with brandy in three additions until evenly incorporated.
In a separate bowl, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Add the marinated fruit, pecan halves and candied orange peel and stir to coat well with flour. Stir this mixture into the cake batter and divide into the prepared pans. Divide the batter evenly between your two loaf pans (if you have a scale, you can weigh them to make sure the batter is evenly divided).
Bake in centre of oven for between 1 hour and 30 minutes and 1 hour and 45 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely and carefully remove parchment paper.
Candied Orange Peel
Slice off top and bottom of the orange then lightly score around the whole orange
lengthwise in about five places. Gently pull the sections of scored peel off the orange, the way you would if you were to eat an orange.
Julienne the peel lengthwise into ¼ inch slices and dice into small cubes.
Immerse the diced orange peel into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes and drain (blanching reduces the bitterness).
Return the diced peel to the pot, add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer.
Simmer for about 15-30 minutes or until peel looks translucent.
Drain well through sieve. If you wish, reserve the liquid and reduce it as desired to use as a glaze or syrup (the orange peel syrup is delicious poured over a tart or a scoop of vanilla ice cream).
Spread the peel on a baking sheet to cool and dry for 1 to 2 hours.
Store candied orange peel in an airtight container until ready to use.
Wrap Fruitcake in Cheesecloth (Optional):
When the cakes are completely cooled, soak some cheesecloth (enough cheesecloth to completely wrap the cake in two layers) in a mixture of Amaretto and Apricot Brandy. I pour a bit of both into a small bowl, eyeballing about 1/3 of a cup, or enough to thoroughly soak the cheesecloth. Gently squeeze out the excess but leave the cheesecloth quite moist.
Lay out a length of foil long enough to totally wrap your cake on a counter.
Lay the booze-soaked cheesecloth flat in the centre of the foil. Gently lay your fruit cake in the center of the cheesecloth and carefully fold all four sides of the cheesecloth over the cake to wrap it completely.
Then wrap the foil around the cheesecloth-covered cake as you would wrap a gift.
Place the cake in a food grade plastic bag and refrigerate. If you can, let the booze soak into the cake for at least 8 hours before slicing into it. Keep cake refrigerated.
All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife