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.

Bleeding heart and hosta; no flowers necessary

Bleeding heart and hosta; no flowers necessary

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

Day 1:

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.

Day 2:

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.

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  • Colleen Said,

    Thank you so much for digging this recipe out of the past. I really appreciate it. I’m going to get busy and make some Easter Fruitcakes! With gratitude, Colleen

  • leslie Said,

    Thanks for asking, Colleen

    I just hope the fruitcakes are all you remember them to be. Also that you can remember how YOU made them; the recipe works with whatever dried fruits, candied fruits and nuts you want, as long as the quantities add up to the same amounts as called for, and my guess is that many bakers have made it their own in various ways.

  • steve Henry Said,

    Leslie I have followed you for years and just discovered this blog. thankyou. I also am an avid collector of cookbooks and this recipe is unique from any I have ever seen in that it has figs and dates together.I want some now!!! I regress.
    I have a suggestion to add and it is this: I soak the fruits in the bourbon etc untill plumped. It may work here also. I also am intriiqed by the soaking on the cloths. we had a problem one time with a little mold and never did it again . Any ideas here?

  • leslie Said,

    Hi Steve, and welcome! It’s great to have you aboard.

    as far as the recipe:
    * plumping fruits – just soaking in alcohol works fine, of course, especially if you leave the fruits in for a long time. The reason to steam plump ( IF necessary) before the 2-day soak in the hooch is that if the fruit is really wizened alcohol can toughen the skins.

    * mold – eek! what a drag. I’ve never had it happen but maybe I’m just lucky. Do see looking back over the recipe I neglected to say linen cloths; it might be something more tightly woven wouldn’t work the same way. How do you pack your cakes for storage now?

  • Leigh Williams Said,

    Leslie, I thank you for the recipe. I will try it during the next holiday season. In the meantime, I’d like to share my grandmother’s fruitcake recipe. This one is slightly lighter, and since East Texas was “dry”, it does not involve brandy, but coffee instead. It has been a family favorite for fifty years, and I just prefer it to the richer, sweeter purchased cakes.

    Sybil Lovett’s Fruitcake

    1 c Butter 1 ts Cinnamon
    2 c Sugar 1 ts Cinnamon
    4 c Flour 1 ts Cloves
    1 c Strong coffee 3 Eggs
    1 Small carton
    candied fruit 1 ts Soda
    1 c Chopped pecans 1 ts Baking powder
    1 c Chopped walnuts 1 10 oz jelly (apple)
    1 c Chopped almonds 4 Stewed apples OR
    1 lb Raisins 1 Can applesauce
    1 qt Fig preserves

    Cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Add coffee and stir. Sift together dry ingredients; add slowly, beating well. Add fig preserves, chopped up.

    Add nuts, fruits, raisins, jelly, and applesauce; mix thoroughly.

    Prepare 2 tube pans or 3 loaf pans by greasing sides and putting wax paper on bottoms. Pour in batter.

    Bake in very slow oven (225) 3 1/2 hrs. Check; if not done, raise heat to 250 and bake 30 more minutes.


    Use a small carton of mixed candied fruit . . . or as Mamaw put it, 15 cents’ worth of orange, citron, cherries, lemon, and pineapple.

    Mamaw said she usually used apple jelly, but I guess you could use another kind (maybe strawberry, cherry, or even pineapple) if apple weren’t available.

    This recipe makes 5 of the disposable aluminum loaf pans.

    I think the coffee is the key ingredient here. It really cuts that cloying sweetness and make the cake flavors must darker and more interesting.

    I wrap them tightly in waxed paper when they’re cooled; they will keep three weeks if kept well-wrapped.

    from Sybil Lovett (Leigh’s maternal grandmother)

  • leslie Said,

    Thanks Leigh – and Sybil!

    for the very different fruitcake AND for the regional touches that brought back memories. There’s a branch of Bill’s family in Texas that sent us fig preserves every year when the mamaw generation was still alive.

  • wedding cake Said,

    Fruit cake is also much healthier than some of the modern alternatives, and it also brings back some nostalgic feelings from the days gran made cakes as puddings!

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