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Archive for October, 2010

I know people either love fruit cakes or hate them.  So bear with me and read this because this cake changed my mind although it took years before I actually tried it. I used to despise fruit cakes since I couldn’t stand the candied fruits in them. But as I grew older, I longed for some of the things that were always part of the holidays when I was growing up. My family didn’t have many traditions outside of celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. And my Mother always made what I considered traditional fruit cakes because my Father loved them. I can’t say whether any of the rest of the family liked them or not . However, I ask my Mother for her recipe and tried making one. She told me how my Dad always wanted her to make extra ones for him to give away to his buddies at work and she made other extras which she gave  to neighbors who loved them too. I must say that after I made one, I had a new and greater appreciation for my Mother since stirring all those fruits and nuts up into the batter took lots of muscles to get it mixed up well. I’m going to share that special recipe since I have to admit that my husband and I really loved the cake so much that second year  I even made little ones to give away to friends and neighbors who also loved the…so the tradition continues and making the cakes bring back some very pleasant memories of my Father too.  Below is Mom’s recipe with her directions; you might have a nonstick pan or other method you prefer instead of her method of preparing the cake pan.

Mom’s Light Fruit Cake

1 1/4 cups Light Raisins

1 cup Currants or Dark Raisins

1 1/4 cups cubed Candied Pineapple

2/3 cup coarsely chopped Dates

1 1/4 cups chopped Candied Cherries

1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped Walnuts

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Almonds

1 – 4 oz can Coconut or an equivalent amount from a package

1/2 cup Orange Juice                     2 1/4 cups Flour

3/4 cup Margarine or Butter               1 cup Sugar

1/4 tsp. salt                                                5 Eggs

Some whole Candied Cherries and whole Nuts to decorate top of cake

Preheat Oven to 275 degrees F. Prepare cake pan before making cake.  Oil pan lightly and line with brown paper and then oil paper. Mom used a tube pan with a hole in the center and she oiled and lined it the same way as the sides and bottom of the pan. I use old springform pans lined with oiled parchment paper.  (I think she used brown paper bags.)

Mix fruits and nuts together with 1/4 cup flour to coat them well so they don’t sink to the bottom of the cake.

Cream 3/4 cup margarine (butter) and gradually add 1 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp salt.

Beat five eggs one at a time until light and fluffy. Measure 2 1/2 cups flour (sift or fluff with a whisk) and add flour to egg mixture alternating with the 1/2 cup orange juice until all the flour and juice are mixed in.

Using a spatula mix in Coconut,  Fruit and Nuts — this is where muscles are needed especially if you increase the recipe to make more than one cake.

Pour or scrape into prepared cake pan and smooth  out evenly. Now add decorative whole fruits and nuts in a design of your own creation. Bake 3 hours (if making small cakes you’ll have to adjust baking time somewhat). Cool on rack 15 minutes and then remove cake from pan. At this point you might want to wrap your cake in cheesecloth once it cooled completely and spritz it with your favorite fruit brandy — I used apricot. My Mom used orange juice since she didn’t drink alcohol.  This should be stored in an airtight non-metal container for about 2 or 3 weeks. Check it every once in awhile and spritz it w/ brandy as needed. It can be refrigerated if you want to keep it longer than the initial 2 – 3 weeks.

I’ve read where some people line an airtight tupperware container the cake will fit in with parchment paper and then it can lifted it out of the container by picking up the parchment paper. Then unwrap the cheesecloth to cut off servings and the remainder can be rewrapped and  lifted back into the container — just be careful not to cut through the paper.  That way the cake and brandy do not come in contact with the container. Anyone out there who tries this, please let me know how you like it.  I’m really sorry I don’t have pictures of the ones I’ve made in the past. If I make it this year I will add them to a later post.

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Wild Fruit Cake

For this post I’m going to start by presenting an Alton Brown recipe which is the basis I used to create a version I called a Wild Fruit Cake. For all of you folks out that who might have discovered this recipe already, I’m going to suggest using it as a start for creating your own version of a wild fruit cake. First of all read over the recipe and then try to imagine ways to tweak it to make it a “wilder” fruit cake as I have done with astonishing results. What I recommend is to use the recipe as a guideline and modify the fruits and nuts by adding a variety of wild fruits and nuts. You want the same approximate quantities, but you can vary the amounts of those in recipe so that you can add more wild ones. I added an array of wild nuts so that my cake included hickory nuts, black walnuts, butternuts as well as the pecans the recipe called for. In addition I’ve added dried elderberries and I’m certain one could add paw paw, persimmons or whatever other wild fruits that are available. I think one could even adjust the recipe to use fresh or frozen fruits by adjusting the wet ingredients a bit so that you obtain the right consistency. I’ve made my suggestions and I would be interested in how this recipe works for anyone who tries to make a wilder version of it as I did a couple of year ago.  I have offered alternate suggestion in the recipe that are shown in parentheses below.  Remember be creative and let me know what you did.

Free Range Fruitcake

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Easy

Serves:
10 slices

Ingredients

* 1 cup golden raisins
* 1 cup currants
* 1/2 cup sun dried cranberries (for fruits you can add or substitute any wild fruits — just try to keep overall quantities the same — I suggest you reduce raisins and currants to compensate for additions)

* 1/2 cup sun dried blueberries (wild one if you have them)

* 1/2 cup sun dried cherries — (any wild cherries would work here)
* 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped –( I’d try paw paw or persimmon here if I had some)
* Zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
* Zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
* 1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped (if you have candied wild ginger that should work)
* 1 cup gold rum
* 1 cup sugar
* 5 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
* 1 cup unfiltered apple juice  (or any wild juice you have on hand and if you use any fresh or frozen fruits such as pawpaw pulp, the amount needs to be reduced)
* 4 whole cloves, ground
* 6 allspice berries, ground
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken (or any mixture of wild nuts you have)
* Brandy for basting and/or spritzing (a wild home made brandy would work here to make it more wild)

Directions

Combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests. Add rum and macerate overnight, or microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit.

Place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices. Bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes. (Batter can be completed up to this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before completing cake.)

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture. Quickly bring batter together with a large wooden spoon, then stir in eggs one at a time until completely integrated, then fold in nuts. Spoon into a 10-inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness by inserting toothpick into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, bake another 10 minutes, and check again.

Remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet. Baste or spritz top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan.

When cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight sealing, food safe container. Every 2 to 3 days, feel the cake and if dry, spritz with brandy. The cake’s flavor will enhance considerably over the next two weeks. If you decide to give the cake as a gift, be sure to tell the recipient that they are very lucky indeed.

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