Although it’s rich in history and holds a permanent spot in many family recipe boxes, fruitcake is a much-maligned confection in the United States. That’s unfortunate, because this classic rich, dark cake made with liquor-soaked fruit is so delectable you’ll be loath to give it away.
For the fruit
3/4 cup dark rum
4 oz. dried apricots, chopped into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (3/4 cup lightly packed)
3 oz. dried apples, chopped into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (1 cup lightly packed)
3 oz. currants or dark raisins (3/4 cup lightly packed)
1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
For the batter
5 oz. (10 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
5 oz. (1 cup plus 1 Tbs.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (preferably muscovado)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. table salt
3-1/2 oz. crystallized ginger, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
Dark rum, as needed for brushing
Tip:If you can find it, use muscovado sugar. Made from sugar cane juice, it has a smoky, spicy complexity, with notes of butterscotch.
Soak the fruit
Put the rum, dried fruit, and orange zest in 2-quart saucepan, cover, and warm over medium heat until hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours and up to 3 days. 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 an 8-1/2x4-1/2-inch metal loaf pan. Line the pan with two strips of parchment in opposite directions, leaving an overhang for easy removal of the cake.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer), beat the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy and no lumps of brown sugar remain, 1 to 2 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. of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat briefly. Reserve 2 Tbs. of the flour mixture and add the rest to the batter; beat on low speed for 10 seconds to incorporate the flour and then on medium-high for 1 minute.
Combine the crystallized ginger with the drained fruit. Scrape the batter into the center of the bowl. Put the marinated fruit on top of the batter and then sprinkle the reserved flour evenly over the fruit. Using a rubber spatula, fold the fruit into the batter until it’s evenly distributed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, pressing it in 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 cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, about 1-1/2 hours.
Remove the cake and let it cool in its pan on a wire rack for 20 to 30 minutes. Use the parchment overhang to lift the cake from the pan. Place it on the rack, peel down the parchment sides, and cool completely. When cool, brush the cake with 2 to 3 Tbs. of the reserved fruit-soaking liquid or fresh rum. Wrap tightly in plastic and then in foil; store the cake at room temperature for a minimum of 48 hours before serving.
If serving within a week of baking, you do not need to baste the cake again. For longer storage, baste once a week with 1 to 2 tablespoons of rum and wrap in fresh plastic and foil. The cake will keep at room temperature for at least 3 weeks.
nutrition information (per serving):
sat fat g
Photo: Scott Phillips