The Original Wedding Cake – Fruitcake
Ok, not the original, but the traditional until recently and when you stop to think about the custom of saving the top layer to eat on your first anniversary, fruitcake does sound like the best bet, especially in the days before freezers.
The picture is to say Spring is Coming. It has nothing to do with wedding cake but I don’t have any of the fruitcake; I don’t know anybody who’s getting married and I owe Colleen the recipe, having promised it to her over three months ago. If you don’t have a wedding on tap either, there’s always the bookmark option. If spring is coming, can Christmas be far behind?
3-Day Black Fruitcake
For 4 large bread pans, OR 1 large tube pan and 1 breadpan (or 1 deep 7 inch cake tin to make a wedding cake topper), OR 7 or 8 mini-loaves, OR uncountable cupcakes. The batter doesn’t need to fly into the oven the instant it’s mixed, so you have time to start with the shapes you know you want and then punt with the batter you have left:
1 ½ lbs. each black figs, dates (pitted by you; the pre-pitted ones are terrible), prunes and seeded muscat raisins
½ c. each brandy and rum
¼ c. orange flower water
1 ¼ lbs. currants
1 lb candied pineapple ( @ 2 cans of slices in light syrup, cooked very very slowly until almost all the syrup is gone, then dried until tacky on racks) cut into small chunks
½ lb each candied citron ( available from Kalustyan’s) and candied citrus peel (ditto, but home made is better), cut into small dice.
¼ cup spirits – brandy, rum, bourbon, calvados…
6 ½ c. flour
2 tsp. grated nutmeg
1 ½ tsp. each cinnamon and allspice
scant ½ tsp. salt
1 1/4 lbs. ( 5 sticks) butter, at cool room temperature
1 lb. dark brown sugar
12 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla
1lb. each toasted almonds and toasted pecans
½ lb. each toasted walnuts and toasted peeled hazelnuts
more brandy or rum for storage cloths
With luck, the fruit is moist, plump and tender. If it’s not, steam over boiling water for about 10 minutes to revive. Cut the figs, dates and prunes into large, not necessarily even chunks – a scissors works well – and put them and the raisins in a very large, non-reactive bowl. Pour in the brandy, rum and orange flower water, sir well, cover and let sit overnight.
Add the currants, candied fruits and additional spirit. Sir well, cover and again let sit overnight.
Day 3, baking day:
1. Prepare the pans. Butter lightly, then line with parchment paper, paper cups for cupcakes. Set aside. Heat the oven to 300.
2. Put the flour in a medium bowl, add the spices and salt and stir with a wire whisk until thoroughly mixed.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture lifts and lightens. Set aside. In another large bowl – ideally the bowl of a standing mixer – beat the egg yolks until very thick and pale.
4. Slowly beat the yolks into the butter and sugar. Drain any excess liquid from the fruit and beat it in along with the vanilla.
5. Mix the nuts with the fruit, then stir in the flour and yolk mixtures in alternate thirds.
6. Beat the egg whites to limp peaks. Stir about a third into the batter to lighten it, then gently stir in the rest. (Folding is not going to happen.)
7. Spoon the batter into the pans, filling them about ¾ full. Thump them on the work surface and press down on the tops to be sure there are no holes. Smooth the tops.
8. Put a small pan of warm water in the oven, put in the cakes and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. This could take 2.5 hours or more for a thick tube, about 40 minutes for cupcakes. Loaves generally take a little under 2 hours.
9. Cool on racks for about 20 minutes, then turn out of the pans and let finish cooling with the paper on. When the cakes are completely cold, remove the paper. Moisten detergent-free linen cloths like napkins or tea towels with brandy or rum until they are damp through but not wringing wet. Wrap the cakes, then put them in plastic bags or tight-lidded tins and store in a cool place for at least 2 weeks, up to 3 months. Best to refrigerate or freeze if you’re going to keep them longer.