Day 272: Dark Fruitcake, Squash Soup and Vegetarian Lasagna

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.”

Dark Fruitcake

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.


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September 28 2008 08:26 pm | cake

20 Responses to “Day 272: Dark Fruitcake, Squash Soup and Vegetarian Lasagna”

  1. Carolann on 29 Sep 2008 at 5:53 am #

    Hey J – I have 2 editions of Joy, my Mom’s 1953 and a 1975 edition. Both call for eggs. Is this recipe a healthier version?

  2. Jill on 29 Sep 2008 at 11:13 am #

    The vegetarian lasagne from Looneyspoons is a favorite in my home, well…. at least for the adults! Does W eat it?

  3. The Uphill Gardener on 29 Sep 2008 at 1:58 pm #

    Eeeek that reminds me that I really need to get my Christmas cake baked! It’s almost October already!!! There are definately eggs missing from that recipe – I reckon 3 eggs?

  4. JulieVR on 29 Sep 2008 at 5:20 pm #

    Nope, no eggs missing from the recipe. This one doesn’t call for eggs.

  5. robyn on 30 Sep 2008 at 9:09 am #

    Question for you…….why would some fruitcakes have eggs, and some not? What difference does it make to the final product?

  6. JulieVR on 30 Sep 2008 at 9:27 pm #

    They are just different batters; this has such a high fruit and nut to batter ratio that it is really there to bind it all together; I imagine in this case the cake doesn’t rely on eggs to give it structure or leavening. It’s dense and moist, almost like a brownie.

  7. Day 352: Fanny Farmer’s Dark Fruitcake — dinner with Juliedinner with Julie » Day 352: Fanny Farmer’s Dark Fruitcake on 17 Dec 2008 at 9:57 pm #

    […] I think I’d have a similar reaction if I never got around to making fruitcake. I posted our most often-used fruitcake recipe earlier this fall when Sue sent me a chunk – we’ve always used the dark fruitcake recipe from […]

  8. Plum Crumble with Burnt Sugar Ice Cream | dinner with Julie on 27 Sep 2009 at 7:30 pm #

    […] One Year Ago: Dark Fruitcake and Squash Soup […]

  9. Grilled Sausages with Spiced Figs | dinner with Julie on 26 Nov 2009 at 12:55 am #

    […] we baked dark fruitcake (the very best therapy, I’m telling you) and took the kids to see A Christmas Carol (the […]

  10. Meg on 28 Nov 2009 at 6:34 pm #

    Julie – the one we used to make years ago from Joy called for a liquid (there were several options, but I always used real grape juice – red – not just for the taste, but to help create the dark colour). Since I’m now on my second Joy, I’m not sure which recipe this was, but not the one you’ve posted here. You don’t have the other Joy recipes by any chance do you?

  11. Meg on 28 Nov 2009 at 6:35 pm #

    I’m talking about the fruitcake of course!

  12. Meg on 28 Nov 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Okay, I’m embarrassed. I just noticed the juice in your recipe. This IS the dark fruitcake I love.

  13. JulieVR on 29 Nov 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    It is! And I use grape juice too Mom.

  14. Emily on 06 Dec 2009 at 6:27 pm #

    Recipe looks great! Just curious, though – if you use the orange juice instead of the alcohol, how long will the cake keep at room temperature? Will I have to freeze it, or will it last for a few weeks at room temp? Thanks! Can’t wait to try it :)

  15. Crystal on 01 Dec 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    My first ever fruitcake is in the oven right now and it smells amazing. I have the same question as Emily, since I used orange juice instead of alcohol, should I keep the cake at room temperature? Thanks!

  16. JulieVR on 01 Dec 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    It shouldn’t make a difference whether you use juice or alcohol, storage-wise! especially just going between wine and juice.

  17. Sharon on 04 Dec 2010 at 10:58 am #

    RE Dark Fruitcake – can this recipe be divided into mini loaf pans?

  18. Anonymous on 18 Nov 2013 at 7:30 am #

    Just checked my Joy of cooking and it has the exact recipe but it has 6 eggs.

  19. 12 Days of Recipes: Spiced Nuts » Dinner With Julie on 29 Nov 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    […] fruitcake is akin to a power bar, and thus a perfectly acceptable breakfast. (Note to self: make dark fruitcake.) That said, I do try to offset the copious amounts of shortbread and salted caramel with healthy […]

  20. marg on 16 Nov 2014 at 8:24 pm #

    Just finished wrapping my newly backed cakes in grape juice soaked cheesecloth. I use my mother’s very similar recipe & for some reason, the cake is not dark as in past years. Any suggestions why? Almost thought I’d forgotten the molasses, but no …

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