Fruit Cake

Season: Fall | Active Time: 3 hours 15 minutes | Total Time: 2 months | Difficulty: 4 (Challenging; although the cake itself is easy, it’s very time-intensive)

PSA: If you’re reading this recipe in December thinking you might want to make it for the holidays, I’m sorry to tell you, you’re too late! This style of fruitcake must be “aged” for 2 months before it’s ready to serve, which means baking it in October. The cake is “fed” weekly with a couple of tablespoons of brandy to preserve it and build flavor, then it’s hermetically sealed in layers of jam, marzipan, and royal icing (uncut, the finished cake will literally keep for years). The result is an ultrarich, dense, and complex dessert that will forever dispel the stereotype of fruitcake as leaden and terrible. I adapted this recipe from a traditional English fruitcake recipe given to me by a friend, Joanna Keohane. Jo, a Brit, has had the recipe in her family for generations. I definitely Americanized it, swapping in dark brown sugar for muscovado, molasses for black treacle, fresh citrus zest instead of candied peel, and adding cranberries. (The macadamia nuts, also an American touch, are an homage to a late family member who was a great fan of this fruitcake and preferred macadamias over any other nut; you can swap in whatever kind you like.) While this is the most time-consuming recipe in the book, it’s not overly technical and makes a fun and rewarding project.

Makes two 9-inch cakes (each serves at least 20)

Special Equipment: Two 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch sides, stand mixer, two 9-inch cardboard cake rounds, pastry bag

FRUIT MIXTURE

8 ounces (227g) dried cranberries (about 1⅔ cups)

8 ounces (227g) dried currants (about 1⅔ cups)

8 ounces (227g) golden raisins (about 1½ cups)

8 ounces (227g) dried apricots, chopped (about 1⅓ cups)

12 ounces (340g) dried cherries (about 2⅓ cups)

4 ounces (113g) crystallized ginger, chopped (about ¾ cup)

⅓ cup brandy, whisky, or Grand Marnier (2.7 oz / 77g)

¼ cup fresh orange juice (2 oz / 57g)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 oz / 28g)

CAKE

4 ounces (113g) walnuts or macadamia nuts (about 1 cup)

Butter for the pans

3¼ cups all-purpose flour (15 oz / 423g)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond flour (4.8 oz / 135g)

1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.11 oz / 3g)

1 teaspoon ground allspice

3 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz / 340g), at room temperature

1⅔ cups packed dark brown sugar (12 oz / 340g)

¼ cup unsulfured molasses (2.8 oz / 80g)

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

7 large eggs (12.3 oz / 350g), at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 tablespoons brandy, whisky, or Grand Marnier, plus 2 cups more so you can feed the cakes 2 tablespoons a week for 2 months ②

ASSEMBLY

16 tablespoons raspberry jam (11.3 oz / 320g)

24 ounces (680g) marzipan

8 cups (2 lb / 907g) powdered sugar, plus more for rolling out

5 large egg whites (6.2 oz / 175g)

Pinch of kosher salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Prepare the fruit mixture and macerate overnight: In a large bowl, toss the cranberries, currants, raisins, apricots, cherries, and crystallized ginger, breaking up any clumps. Pour the brandy, orange juice, and lemon juice over the fruit and toss to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at least 8 hours and up to 24.

Toast the nuts: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the nuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and bake, shaking halfway through, until deep golden brown and very fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the nuts from the oven and let cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

Drop the oven temperature: Reduce the temperature of the oven to 275°F. These are very dense cakes with no leavening, so they bake for a long time at a low temperature to ensure the centers fully cook without the surfaces darkening too much.

Prepare the pans: Butter the cake pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Line all the way around the insides of the pans with a double thickness of parchment paper, which should be an inch taller than the pan itself (this helps shield the surfaces of the cakes from the heat). Set the pans aside.

Prepare the dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the all-purpose flour, almond flour, salt, and allspice. Set aside.

Make the cake: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, molasses, orange zest, and lemon zest and beat on low until smooth. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat, scraping down the sides once or twice, until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, increasing the speed just to incorporate each egg before decreasing to low and adding the next, until the mixture is very smooth. Beat in the vanilla, then, on low speed, add the flour mixture and mix just until it disappears.

Fold in the fruit and nuts: Remove the bowl from the mixer and tip in the entire dried fruit mixture (it should have absorbed all the liquid, but if there is still some liquid, go ahead and add it) and the toasted nuts. Use a large spatula to fold in the fruit and nuts until they’re distributed evenly throughout the batter. It will seem like an enormous amount of fruit relative to the batter, but it’s correct.

Fill the pans: Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, dividing evenly, working the batter all the way to the sides, and smoothing the top in an even layer. Make a shallow, wide depression in the center of the batter; the cakes will dome slightly in the oven, so this helps keep the tops flat and level.

Bake and cool: Bake the cakes side by side until the surfaces are deeply browned and a cake tester or skewer inserted into the centers comes out clean, 2½ to 3 hours, rotating the position of the pans after 1½ hours. If you notice that the fruit on the surface is starting to burn, tent it loosely with a piece of foil. Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool completely in the pans.

“Feed” the cakes and turn them out: Poke holes all across the surfaces of the cakes with a skewer. Slowly pour 2 tablespoons brandy over the top of each cake, allowing it to absorb. Turn the cakes out of the pans onto a rack, leaving all the parchment paper on the cakes. Reinvert the cakes and wrap them in another layer of parchment paper, then in a layer of foil, then place inside an airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place where you will age the cakes.

“Feed” once a week for 2 months: ③ Once a week, carefully unwrap the cakes and drizzle the surface of each with 2 tablespoons brandy. This will gradually preserve the cakes and give them a deep, rich flavor. Rewrap the cakes, using the same parchment and foil, place back in the airtight container and return to their resting place.

Cover the cakes: After 2 months, unwrap the cakes and place them on a wire rack. Working with one cake at a time, use a small offset spatula to spread 5 tablespoons of the jam across the top and down and around the sides of the cake in a very thin layer.

Roll out 6 ounces (340g) of the marzipan between two sheets of parchment paper, occasionally peeling off the paper and dusting both sides with powdered sugar to prevent sticking, until you have a thin round measuring about 12 inches across. Remove the top piece of parchment, invert and center the round over the coated cake, and peel off the second piece of parchment so the marzipan is draped over the cake.

Smooth the top to eliminate air bubbles and then work it down and around the sides, pressing firmly so it sticks to the jam. Repeat with the second cake, using another 5 tablespoons of the jam and 6 ounces (340g) of the marzipan.

Invert each cake onto a parchment-lined baking sheet so the uncovered surfaces are exposed. Coat the uncovered surface of one cake with 3 tablespoons of the jam in a thin, even layer. Roll out 6 ounces (340g) of the marzipan into a thin round the same way as before and drape it over the jam, smoothing so it meets and overlaps with the first layer of marzipan (some folds and creases are okay, but the entire cake should now be covered). Dip a finger in warm water and rub along the folds and seams between the layers of marzipan to seal them. Repeat with the second cake and the remaining 3 tablespoons jam and 6 ounces (340g) marzipan.

Let the covered cakes sit out at room temperature for at least 4 hours and up to 24, carefully turning once, to allow the marzipan to dry out.

Seal the cakes with royal icing: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and pinch of salt on medium until frothy. Turn off the mixer, add 4 cups (1 lb / 454g) of the powdered sugar, and pulse the mixer several times until the sugar is incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture is smooth and glossy, about 30 seconds. Turn off the mixer and add the remaining 4 cups (1 lb / 454g) powdered sugar and the lemon juice and pulse again. Beat the icing on high until it’s very thick, glossy, opaque, and holding a firm peak, another 45 seconds.

Spread a thin layer of the royal icing across the top of each cake, then place the cardboard cake rounds on top of the royal icing, centering them, and invert the cakes onto the rounds so the iced side is down (this will “glue” the cake to the board). Scrape the remaining royal icing over top of the two cakes, dividing it evenly, and use a small offset spatula to spread the icing across the top and down the sides so it’s covering every bit of the marzipan. You can smooth the icing or make swooshes and swirls, or pipe the icing into a decorative pattern. Let the cakes sit at room temperature, uncovered, for 24 hours to allow the royal icing to fully dry. Whew—you made it! They’re done!

Serve: Cut the cakes into thin slices to serve.

DO AHEAD
The cakes, covered in royal icing, will keep for several years (seriously!). Once cut, the cakes, well wrapped and stored in the refrigerator, will keep for several weeks.

① Because this recipe contains as much dried fruit as it does cake, use the best quality dried fruit you can find.

② While you are adding a large volume of brandy to the cakes, the raw burn of alcohol dissipates so there isn’t a pronounced alcohol flavor.

③ I recommend setting a calendar reminder so you don’t forget to “feed” the cakes once a week.

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.