OK, since I started 2017 by cancelling a brunch because of icy condition on the fair isle of Camano, I might as well go the whole way and offer up a fruitcake recipe to start 2017.
Now some people might see this as a bad sign for the coming year. But those of you who know me well, or don’t know me personally, but trust me none-the-less, realize that it is not in my nature to steer you wrong!
So, if you are one of the lucky people who have experienced a truly great fruitcake in your past, let me tell you without even a quarter ounce of equivocation, that this is a fruitcake not to be missed. It is full of flavor, with a lovely moist, dense, and tender crumb. Hints of orange and the taste of exotic spices fills your mouth, while the occasional crunch from the nuts is a pleasant offset to the soft texture of the cakey part. And the best thing about this fruitcake – you can make it yourself! You don’t ever again have to pay $39.95 plus tax and shipping to enjoy a high quality, fantastic tasting holiday treat. You can do it all fairly easily in your very own kitchen.
All you need is a modicum of planning, a few interesting ingredients, a visit to a grocery store for bulk dried fruits and nuts, an internet search for burnt sugar syrup (it’s what makes the fruitcake black), and an adventurous spirit! Put it all in the oven (not the planning, internet search, or adventurous spirit, of course, but all the rest) and share this little bit of heaven with your family and friends.
And in case you were wondering where I learned to make this delightful creation, it was during our vacation to Belize. My friend Vicki and I took a class from a local chef and this recipe is as close to her recipe as was reasonable. (You had to be there to understand why I couldn’t quite match her recipe ingredient for ingredient.) (If you want to know more about our adventure while in Belize, search under “Belize” and all will be revealed.)
So faithful readers, when you are planning your holiday goodies at the end of this year, please consider making fruitcake. I know some of your family will make jokes about receiving fruitcake, like – great, we can use a slice to balance our wobbly kitchen table, or it will work as a sandbag during flooding season, or my personal favorite – we can use it as a speed bump to slow down the drag racers in our neighborhood. But their verbal lampoon will swiftly disappear with their first bite. I’ve actually known grown men (not mentioning any names here Willie) who love fruitcake so much that they will actually hide or eat most of it themselves, thus preventing their wives (Eden – one of my daughters) from partaking of this treat meant for BOTH of them! But I digress…..
So please don’t hesitate to make this recipe or the Holiday Fruitcake recipe at the bottom of this post. Both are absolutely delicious. Even the most jaded connoisseur will become a devoted fan of fruitcake if given a chance. Sandbag, indeed!
CARRIBEAN BLACK FRUITCAKE
- 1 c. pecans, coarsely chopped
- ¾ c. whole raw almonds, coarsely chopped
- 3 c. dried fruit* (apricots, cherries, blueberries, pineapple, etc.), coarsely chopped
- ½ c. pitted dates, coarsely chopped
- ½ c. currants
- 4 oz. container candied orange peel
- 4 oz. container candied red or green cherries, halved
- 2½ c. dark rum (I used half Cruzan Aged Rum and half Myer’s Original Dark Rum)
- ½ c. Crème Sherry
Mix together all ingredients in a 3-quart glass container with a tightfitting lid. Cover and store in a cool, dark place for 1 week.
*I used ¾ cup golden raisins, ½ cup candied pineapple pieces, ½ cup dried blueberries, ½ cup chopped candied papaya, ½ cup chopped dried apricots, and ¼ cup chopped dried cherries
For the cake batter:
- 3 c. all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 T. baking powder
- 1 tsp. espresso powder
- 1 T. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1½ tsp. ground allspice
- 1 tsp. ground clove
- 1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2¼ c. packed light brown sugar
- 6 lg. eggs, room temperature
- zest of lg. orange
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- ¾ c. burnt sugar syrup (Blue Mountain Country is best) (it’s what makes the cake black)
Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves together in a large bowl. Set aside.
Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until light, fluffy, and pale yellow. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and return the mixer to medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, letting each mix in fully before adding the next. Add orange zest and vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and return the mixer to low speed.
Drain macerated fruit and nuts. Set aside. Do not discard the left over liquid!
Add flour mixture, any unabsorbed booze from macerating the fruit, and burnt sugar to butter mixture; mix until just combined. Let the batter rest for about 2 hours. Add the drained fruit and nut mixture to the batter. Divide batter evenly between 3 buttered 9 x 5-inch or 5 buttered 8 x 3 7/8-inch loaf pans. (I personally prefer the smaller pans.)
Place a large shallow pan of water on the lowest rack in your oven.
Bake fruitcakes on a rack in the middle of a pre-heated 300 degree oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 2 hours for 9 X 5 loaf pans or 90 minutes for 8 x 3 7/8-inch loaf pans. (The cake centers will be moist but not wet.)
Let cool completely. If you have baked the cakes in aluminum pans to give away, don’t remove the cakes from the pans. If you have baked them for your own consumption, you can leave the fruitcake in the pans or turn out of the pans and wrap in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Best if aged for a couple of weeks.
To age, store each cooled cake in a re-sealable plastic bag or covered with aluminum foil at room temperature for up to 2 months. A dark cupboard or pantry is ideal, but do not refrigerate, as the moisture level will change the texture.
- 1 lb. dried fruit medley (peaches, pears, apricots, apples, and golden raisins or currents)
- ½ lb. dried Bing cherries
- 1 lb. chopped dates
- 1 lb. candied/glazed pineapple, coarsely chopped
- 21-oz. container red candied/glazed cherries, coarsely chopped
- 1 lb. coarsely chopped pecans
- 3 c. spiced rum
- 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 c. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1½ tsp. ground allspice
- 1½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 5 lg. eggs
- 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
Combine fruit, nuts, and rum in a covered glass container for 3 to 7 days. 7 days is best.
Cream butter, sugar, and spices until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. In a separate bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Stir into butter mixture along with the macerated fruit, nuts, and any remaining liquid.
Place a large shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven to prevent the cakes from baking too dry.
Line 3 greased 9×5-inch loaf pans or 1 greased 9×5-inch and 5 greased 7×4-inch loaf pans with parchment paper and grease paper lightly. Divide the batter evenly and bake in the middle of your pre-heated 275 degree oven for 2-2½ hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on racks for one hour. Remove cakes from pan, and carefully peel off the parchment paper. When completely cool, wrap in foil and store for at least 1 month.