In that order.
We went to C’s for dinner tonight, and I didn’t want to stress her out by showing up with my camera, so I didn’t. She made her usual company dinner (I in no way mean to diminish it by mentioning that it’s her favourite thing to make when friends come over – I am always interested in peoples’ go-to recipes, and think it’s smart to have a few good things that always work and everyone loves); vegetarian lasagna from Looneyspoons and squash soup. The soup recipe comes from her next door neighbour and although I don’t have it to share, I can tell you it involves ladling hot soup over cubed brie so that the bits of cheese melt into little paisley patterns in the bottom of the bowl as you dip your spoon through.
But yesterday a package arrived on my doorstep from my friend S, whose mother had gone out to visit her in Vernon and brought it back with her. The box was full of plums, nectarines, peppers and apples, a jar of plum jam and a foil-wrapped chunk of dark fruitcake.
I adore dark fruitcake. This is nothing like the pale, sugary cakes full of candied citron and red and green maraschino cherries (how do they get them so green anyway?), but a dense, moist cake with just enough spiced batter to bind the plump dried fruit and chunky, nubbly nuts together. Since its arrival Mike and I have been opening up the double foil wrap, slicing off small wedges for ourselves and carefully rewrapping it, and we finished it this afternoon before heading out for dinner.
Sue and I have always used the dark fruitcake from The Joy of Cooking, but discovered last year when we didn’t manage to coordinate ourselves in the same city for our usual fruitcake-baking date and Sue referred to her old copy of Joy, which has a completely different, egg-laden recipe for dark fruitcake. So this comes from the dark fruitcake of the newish Joy (circa 1997); it’s The One, the be-all end-all of fruitcakes (in my mind) that I will never stray far from.
If you’re the type to bake fruitcake months in advance (I’m not, but it’s never too early to share), it’s getting to be that time. Sue says: “I figure as soon as it’s too cool in the mornings to wear bare feet and flip-flops without freezing your toes, fruitcake is back in vogue. Kind of like the opposite of white shoes after Labour Day: no fruitcake before Labour Day.”
adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1997 edition
3 cups all-purpose flour (you can get away with using part whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
½ cup dark molasses
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup brandy, rum, or grape or orange juice (or even red wine!)
2 ½ cups mixed dried or candied fruit of your choice (I use dried cranberries, dried cherries if I can afford them, figs, dark raisins, real candied orange peel if I have it, and finely chopped apricots if I’m in the mood)
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts and/or pecans
1 ½ cup dates
1 ½ cup currants
1 ½ cup golden raisins
Preheat the oven to 300° F, and grease a bundt or tube pan really well; coat with flour and tap out the excess.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar for a few minutes, until light and creamy. Beat in the molasses and orange and lemon zest and juice.
Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the brandy, rum or juice in 2 parts. Stir in the fruits and nuts and scrape into the pan.
Bake for 3 ½ hours. Joy instructs: “The cake may appear done at 2 ½ hours; simply ignore this.” If the cake is darkening too quickly on top, cover it loosely with foil for the last 30-60 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then invert onto a plate. Store well wrapped at room temperature.
September 28 2008 08:26 pm | cake