Yes, I’ve heard the jokes. Fruitcake is the bane of the holidays—there’s only one in the whole world, and people keep sending it to each other, year after year. And if you don’t like it, you can actually use it as a doorstop 🙂 People either love fruitcake or hate it; I love it! Surveys show that 38% of people give it away, making it the most popular re-gifted item; another 13% use it as a doorstop, while 9% throw it away; still 28% actually eat it. Especially if you bake it yourself, Christmas fruitcake is a great gift to bring to your friends or family for their Christmas meal or to bake for your family to enjoy.
But mind you, a cake with fruit is not necessarily a fruitcake. If it’s light and fluffy, it’s not a fruitcake. If there’s no alcohol in it, it may be delicious, but it’s not a fruitcake. Yes, fruitcake is dense, but it should be sliced thinly—it’s really a confection, not a cake. Yes, it contains candied fruit, but you don’t have to put anything you don’t like. And yes, it does last a very long time—25 years by some accounts—but that’s because it is soaked in alcohol. Plus you really should at least taste it before you save it to be re-gifted to your favorite aunt next Christmas. And if you don’t finish your fruitcake past the holidays, you don’t have to use it as a doorstop—you can keep feeding it with liquor and snitching slices off it until next Christmas.
This fruitcake has all the characteristics of a good fruitcake: dense with fruit, not much cake, a balance between sweet and bitterish fruit (dates and candied citrus peel), moist from fruit such as sultanas and the liqueur, dark and spicy but not burnt. Make sure to plan ahead: this fruitcake needs to sit at least a month to allow the flavors to develop. Packed in sealed tins, these spirited cakes will keep for years—but try to eat yours within a year. If you want more cake than fruit, simply cut the amount of fruits and nuts in half, as well as the orange juice, liqueur, and spices.
My husband was perhaps one of the few people in the world who loved fruitcakes. He sliced it thinly and loved to eat it with coffee or for dessert.
Grand Marnier Fruitcake
- ½ lb pitted dates quartered
- 1/3 lb dark raisins
- 1/3 lb sultana raisins
- 1/3 lb candied orange peel coarsely chopped
- 1/3 lb 1 candied lemon peel coarsely chopped
- 1/3 lb 1 dried currant
- 1/6 c Grand Marnier
- 1/6 c freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 t powdered cinnamon
- 1 t freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 t powdered cloves
- 2 t orange zest
- 2 t lemon zest
- 300 g walnuts, pecans, or blanched almonds, coarsely chopped (See Cook’s Notes
- ¾ c + 2 t butter room temperature
- 300 g muscovado sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/6 c unsulphured molasses
- 1 1/3 c unsifted all-purpose flour
- 1/3 t salt
- 1/3 t baking powder
- corn syrup
- candied red cherries
- candied green cherries
- whole nuts toasted
- 2/3 to 1 1/3 c Grand Marnier
- In a large bowl, combine all fruit-mixture ingredients. Cover, marinate overnight, stirring occasionally to mix the ingredients.
- Preheat oven to 300° Line two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans, or 5 mini loaf pans with parchment; butter well and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl at least twice. Stir in the molasses. Reduce speed of mixer to low. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder; add to bowl, one cup at a time, beating until just combined.
- Add batter to the fruit mixture. Using two large wooden spoons, mix until batter is distributed among the fruit. Pour into prepared pans up to ¾ full, pack down with back of spoon, and level off.
- Bake in preheated oven on center rack. On the bottom of oven, place a cake pan full of water to keep the cakes moist and prevent over-browning. Big loaves should cook in about 2 hours, small loaves in about 1 hour. Cake tester inserted in center of cake should come out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven, and brush top of cakes with corn syrup. Top with candied cherries and whole nuts; and return to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes.
- Cool cakes in pan(completely on wire rack. Douse each cake with ¼ cup (if using big loaf panor 4 teaspoons (if using mini loaf panof Grand Marnier. Remove cakes from pans; discard parchment paper. Wrap each cake in muslin or cheesecloth. Store in a cool, dark, dry place, dousing cakes with 1 to 2 tablespoons (if using big loaf panor 1 to 2 teaspoons (if using mini loaf panof Grand Marnier once a week for 1 to 2 months, or until you think it is pleasantly saturated, before serving or giving them away. The character of the cake will change with aging, making it more and more confection like the longer it ages.
12 TIPS TO MAKE A GREAT FRUITCAKE
1 USE QUALITY INGREDIENTS | Use the best quality nuts and candied fruit available. Make sure to use good quality liquor (brandy, rum, port, or sherry) and be sure your spices are fresh.
2 MAKE AHEAD | For best results, fruitcake should be made at the very least a few days—if not a few weeks—in advance in order to mellow out. It can even be prepared a few months before Christmas and stored in a cool dry place.
3 HAND-CUT FRUITS AND NUTS. | Don’t chop fruits and nuts, certainly not finely, or they will lose their shape. Hand-cut them to assure proper texture.
4 SOAK FRUITS AND NUTS. | Before you get ready to make your Christmas fruitcake, soak the fruits and nuts in the liquor overnight or for up to three days and then coat them in a light flour dusting.
5 USE JUST ENOUGH BATTER. | Fruitcake is a confection, not a cake. Use just enough batter to hold the fruits and nuts together.
6 BAKE LOW AND SLOW. | Once the batter is prepared and the cake is put together, bake it at a very low temperature, no higher than 325 ° F., in a pan lined with parchment paper to prevent burning.
7 KEEP FRUITCAKE MOIST. | A secret to keeping your Christmas fruitcake from drying out is to put a pan of water in the bottom of the oven while it is baking.
8 COOL IN THE PAN. | After the cake is finished, let it fully cool in the pan before removing it.
9 WRAP COOLED FRUITCAKE AND LET IT SIT. | Once completely cooled, wrap your Christmas fruitcake in liquor-soaked cheesecloth or towels and then in plastic wrap or tin foil to preserve the flavor and moistness. Check on your fruitcake every week and brush it with liquor to keep it moist.
10 FREEZE FOR THE LONG-TERM. | Christmas fruitcakes also freeze very well, but they should be made at least four weeks before freezing (bake in October or November).
11 BE CREATIVE. | One of the best parts of a Christmas fruitcake is the freedom to be creative. Add whatever dried fruits and nuts you like and use whichever liquor is your favorite (or none at all). You can also use different shapes of pans; for instance, make fruitcake muffins or brownies as an alternative to round or rectangular-shaped cakes.
12 MAKE IT A TRADITION. | Having fun while baking a Christmas fruitcake can make it the best part of the Christmas season and may just become one of your favorite holiday traditions.