To most Americans fruitcake conjurs up images of sticky raisins, sickly sweet cherries and general reactions of "YUK" or more kindly "No thanks". Most of my American comrades react this way, however I do have a couple of friends, bless their hearts, that like my fruitcake; at least they say they do and even agree to take some home with them. What they do with it, I really don't want to know!
Fruitcake brings back memories of my childhood growing up in Canada, when my British mother would enlist the help of me and my sisters for the yearly baking task. I remember having to line the tins with paper, making sure that both sides were generously coated in butter so they would "stick" to the pans. I also recall her taking the cakes out of their aluminum tins every week to pour some more rum or brandy on the top. I remember the gooey stickiness of cutting the red and green candied cherries in half, (how do they get those cherries so green anyway?) and the sweet aroma filling the house that only cakes made with real butter can do!
Last year, for the first time in my adult life, I decided to pull out the "ole" recipe and give it a try. It was a little difficult to find all the ingredients here in the United States that matched my Canadian recipe. I also think by the time I started shopping, a lot of the ingredients had been snatched up already. Now wait a minute. There must be some Americans here buying all the mixed fruit peel, glazed cherries and such! I also couldn't believe how much it costs to make these cakes! This year, I decided to cut the recipe by 1/3; it just made way too much. I still ended up with 2- loaf pan size cakes and 1- 6" round.
My version is a LIGHT fruitcake, which means that you can still see white cake in between the fruit. There are some fruitcakes that are so heavy that they really don't contain much flour at all. The DARK Fruit cake recipe in my book has only 1/4 cup of flour for 1 cake. I have to admit I'm not really a fan of those.
For some inspiration or perhaps a chuckle, I've included a link to an old 1975 video I found of a British cook named Fanny Cradock. My favorite line from Part One is:
"Prices are so terrible these days, but you have to be allowed ONE piece of decent cake a year."
I'm not sure about Fanny's recipe but this version is very DECENT indeed and not too heavy on the fruit, so that most people will at least be willing to give it a try!
LIGHT FRUIT CAKE
(Adapted from Five Roses Cookbook 1983)
This recipe represents 2/3 of the original, sorry about all the 1/3’s!
2 2/3 cups chopped mixed peel
2 1/3 cups raisins (dark or sultana, I prefer dark)
1 cup glazed red cherries, cut in halves
1 cup glazed green cherries, cut in halves
2/3 cup orange juice
2 cups sliced or slivered blanched almonds
Juice & rind from 1 lemon (2 Tbsp. juice, 1.5 Tbsp. rind)
3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. salt
2/3 lb. butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 eggs (warm to room temp.)
*Combine fruits and soak overnight in orange juice.
Preheat oven. Grease and line 2 loaf pans with greased waxed or parchment paper. Add almonds, juice and rind to fruit mixture; sprinkle with a little flour (from measured amount) and mix well. Combine balance of flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside. Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating between additions. Add eggs, one at a time and beat well. Gradually blend in dry ingredients. Fold in fruit mixture. Fill prepared pans, ¾ full. Place a shallow pan of hot water on bottom rack of oven. Place cake pans in center of oven. Bake in a slow oven about 1 hour. Remove pan of hot water and bake about 1 ¼ hours longer or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pans on rack before removing cakes. Wrap well (plastic and then foil) and store in a cool dry place. Let cakes ripen at least 3 weeks.
Loaf pans: 2 - 8” X 4.5”
1 - 6” diameter spring form pan
Cooking time: about 2 ¼ hours
Temperature: 275° F.