Sunday, December 13, 2009
OH, YES I DID. FRUITCAKE
I honestly have never thought about making a fruitcake until last year. Perhaps the desire to make one does not come until you reach your mid thirties or you are ready for the challenge of attempting to make good such a reviled cake. I don't believe I have ever even had a bite of fruitcake. I have seen the dark brown and glossy specimen at supermarkets..and shuddered at what they must taste like. I have tried panettone but that is as close as I would get. However that is a yeasted cake and American fruitcake is not (though this one does get some lift from egg whites). The one I finally chose, that seemed a pleasant place to start is Eudora Welty's recipe for White Fruitcake (traditionally referred to in the South as a grooms cake). As you can see below I adjusted the fruits because there is no way a green cherry will ever pass my lips if I can help it. Also, having been raised with Italian grandparents I have a strong attachment to candied citron, which is very common in Italian pastries.
I am thinking of this as "Fruitcake Light" as there are many out there that are all kinds of serious. Hopefully next fall if I plan right, (read: never gonna happen) I will have plenty of time to start some cakes and age them properly as is the way with the fruitcake.
Alas, I cannot even report to you how this one is, as I am waiting patiently for it to ahem, mature (read: repeatedly slosh with Bourbon over time).
NOTE: This recipe is from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott (which by the way, paired with Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies by Mollie Cox Bryan would make quite the holiday gift for the dessert or Southern crazed baker in your life.
1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, separated
4 cups flour, sifted before measuring
flour for fruit and nuts
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
1 pound pecan meats (halves, preferably)
1 pound crystallized cherries, half green, half red (I used orange)
1 pound crystallized pineapple, clear (I used lemon)
some citron or lemon peel if desired
1 cup bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla
nutmeg if desired
Make the cake several weeks ahead of Christmas of you can.
The recipe makes three-medium-sized cakes or one large and one small. Prepare the pans -- the sort with a chimney or tube -- by greasing them well with Crisco and then lining them carefully with three layers of waxed paper, all greased as well.
Prepare the fruit and nuts ahead. Cut the pineapple in thin slivers and the cherries in half. Break up the pecan meats, reserving a handful or so shapely halves to decorate the tops of the cakes. Put in separate bowls, dusting the fruit and nuts lightly in sifting of flour, to keep the from clustering together in the batter.
In a very large wide mixing bowl ( a salad bowl or even a dishpan will serve) cream the butter very light, then beat in the sugar until all is smooth and creamy. Sift in the flour, with the baking powder and salt added, a little at a time, alternating with the unbeaten egg yolks added one at a time. When all this is creamy, add the floured fruits and nuts, gradually, scattering the lightly into the batter, stirring all the while, and add the bourbon in alteration little by little. Lastly, whip the eggwhites into peaks and fold in.
Set the oven low, about 250. Pour the batter into the cake-pans, remembering that they will rise. Decorate the tops with nuts. Bake for three hours or more, until they spring back to the touch and a straw inserted at the center comes out clean and dry. (if the top browns too soon, lay a sheet of foil lightly over.) When done, the cake should be a warm golden color.
When they've cooled enough to handle, run a spatula around the sides of each cake, cover the pan with a big plate , turn the pan over and slip the cake out. Cover the cake with another plate and turn rightside up. When cool, the cake can be wrapped in cloth or foil and stored in a tightly fitted tin box.
From time to time before Christmas you may improve it with a little more bourbon, dribbled over the top to be absorbed ans so ripen the cake before cutting. This cake will keep for a good while, in or out of the refrigerator.