For people who grew up in a certain era, the holiday season was filled with tinsel and hand-made decorations. If you were born after 1970, you may never have known the joy of stringing popcorn or cranberries with a needle and thread to decorate your Christmas tree. If you were born after 1985, the lights on your holiday tree are probably LEDs and programmed to blink with an app on your smartphone. In holidays past, lights bulbs were painted glass and became hot to the touch if left plugged in for too long. That was a long time ago when fruitcake was the traditional snack on Christmas Day in America.
Fruitcake was an inevitable part of the holidays. Each year at least one of these brandy-soaked masterpieces arrived. Also a favorite at party gift exchanges, the fruitcake was as much a part of Christmas as Santa Claus. Filled with nuts and candied fruit, the rich and boozy cake made an annual appearance at holiday parties. If you received 3 or 4, it was customary to save at least one for later. This is where it got fun. The excess of brandy (or in some cases rum) allowed the cake to age beautifully and be delicious when served around Easter the following year. When cooked incorrectly, the much- anticipated treat would end up as an inedible brick suitable only as a doorstop.
The tradition of serving fruitcake is as ancient as the Roman Empire. Romans made barley mash with pomegranate seeds and nuts. The recipe evolved and came to prominence in Europe in the middle ages when candied fruit, spices and honey were added. Stollen, Panettone, and other names are given to regional variations on this fruity theme. Fruitcakes again morphed into various forms throughout Europe, but came to America in the form of brandy-soaked nuts and candied fruit baked into a rich dough filled with molasses, spices and brown sugar.
Over the decades the fruitcake has developed negative associations and has fallen out of favor, its popularity fading. Here at PBFY, we think the fruitcake has gotten a bad rap. We’re in favor of reviving the fruitcake tradition for this and future generations. When prepared and preserved correctly, this cake is full of flavor, crunch, alcohol and American Tradition. We’ve done some research and found a delightful spiced dark fruitcake for you to make. Why not give it a try and start a new holiday tradition for your family this holiday season? Come back and comment on your experience. We’d love to hear from you!
Happy Holidays from PBFY!
Dark Spiced Fruitcake
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with butter and flour; set aside.
Combine flour, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside.
Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add brown sugar, and continue beating until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, letting each mix in fully before adding the next.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Return the mixer to medium-high speed, add molasses and lemon zest, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low and mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Add 1/4 cup of the brandy, another 1/3 of the flour mixture, the remaining 1/4 cup brandy, and finally the last 1/3 of the flour. Mix until flour is just incorporated and batter is smooth.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in remaining ingredients. Divide batter evenly between the prepared pans.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.
Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before removing from the pan. Turn cakes out onto the rack and cool completely before slicing and eating, or aging.
To age, brush each cake with 1/4 cup brandy, and then completely bury each in 4 pounds of powdered sugar for up to 4 months.
Another variation is to soak the fruit and nuts in brandy (or rum) for up to two days before you bake the cake.