Cherries and figs need to soak longer than other dried fruit, so be sure to start soaking them at least 4 days before baking. Cognac (or brandy) is too strong to be used in large quantities, but cut with the fragrant sweetness of Amaretto di Saronno, it works nicely here.
For the fruit
2/3 cup Amaretto di Saronno
1/3 cup Cognac
1 Tbs. honey
5-1/2 oz. dried tart cherries (1 cup lightly packed)
5-1/2 oz. golden (Calimyrna) figs, stemmed and cut into eighths (1 cup lightly packed)
5-1/2 oz. golden raisins (1 cup lightly packed)
For the batter
4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
3 oz. almond paste, preferably canned (1/3 cup packed)
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. table salt
5 oz. (1 cup plus 1 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
Amaretto di Saronno and cognac, as needed
Soak the fruit
Pour the Amaretto, Cognac, and honey into a small to medium saucepan. Add the dried fruit, cover, and warm over medium heat until hot, 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 days and up to 1 week.
Before making the cake, bring the fruit to room temperature and drain, reserving any liquid for basting. (If the fruit was very dry, it may have absorbed all the liquid.)
Make the cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the pan with parchment, leaving an overhang for easy removal of the cake (use two strips of parchment, in opposing directions).
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat the butter, almond paste, and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy and no lumps of almond paste remain, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl and mixing for 30 to 60 seconds after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Add 2 Tbs. flour to the bowl and beat briefly. Reserve 2 Tbs. of the flour and add the rest of the flour to the batter; beat on low for 10 seconds to incorporate the flour, and then beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute.
Scrape the batter into the center of the bowl. Add the drained fruit to the top of the batter, then sprinkle the remaining flour evenly over the fruit. Using a rubber spatula, fold the fruit into the batter until evenly distributed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, pressing it to eliminate air pockets and smoothing the top to make it level. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 300°F and bake until the center of the cake has risen slightly and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, 1 hour and 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove the cake and let cool in the pan for 20 to 30 minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack and cool completely. When cool, brush the cake with 2 to 3 Tbs. of the reserved fruit soaking liquid or 1-1/2 Tbs. each of fresh Amaretto and Cognac. Wrap tightly in plastic and store the cake in a cool, dry place for a minimum of 48 hours. Unwrap, slice, and serve.
If serving within a week of baking, you do not need to baste the cake again. If you plan to keep the cake longer, baste once a week with 1 to 2 tablespoons of Amaretto or Cognac.
nutrition information (per serving):
Photo: Scott Phillips