This post comes to us courtesy of Yvonne Dae Morrissey, of the family-owned Gramma Ramsey’s Specialty Fruitcakes.
You may not be able to imagine spending more time in the kitchen, but I’ve found that the week after Thanksgiving is the best time to make fruitcake. With the slower days, there’s time to marinate (technically macerate), bake and wrap, giving the cakes a couple of weeks to age or “ripen” in fruitcake language.
I have the process for making my family’s secret recipe down pat. Fruitcake novices, however, start here.
Use this recipe for Chuck’s Golden Ginger Cake as a base, then add macerated fruit according to the guidelines in this post.
First, decide dark or light-colored cake. In my opinion, light cakes are more “fruit cake” than “fruitcake.” Regardless, the primary ingredients of the recipe should be fruit and nuts; the batter simply holds the fruit together. Traditional cakes like mine include candied fruit, dried fruit and nuts. Some recipes do not include candied fruit — but then is it a “fruit cake” or “fruitcake?”
Marinating the fruit is critical. I use brandy, but rum, bourbon, wine or even fruit juice can be used. Marinate the fruit (candied and/or dried) overnight or longer. I marinate for 72 hours; longer than that doesn’t improve the fruit. Most of the liquid will be absorbed and the fruit will look syrupy. Good fruit, well marinated, is, well, beautiful.
Caution: Some candied fruit can look dry. The candied fruit I use has a rich moist glow. Fruitcakes are expensive to make, so invest in high quality ingredients. And, if you don’t like one candied fruit (like citron), add more of another — or if you don’t like raisins, add more dates and nuts. The important thing is that the weight of fruit and nuts is approximately the same as in the original recipe.
Within those boundaries, you can experiment. The rest of the process is similar to making any good cake: cream thoroughly, blend well and mix completely. The last step, gently folding in the fruit and nuts, puts the “fruit” in “fruitcake.”
Prepare your pans with a non-stick cooking spray, fill and then bake in a “slow” oven. I bake at 275 degrees for approximately two hours. When done, the cakes will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Insert a paring knife in the middle — like with other cakes, it will come out clean.
Always cool fruitcakes completely in the pan before removing. And, while some recipes finish with a glaze, I am not a fan of the added sweetness and shininess. After cooling, I simply wrap my cakes in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, then in aluminum foil.
Liquor-based cakes may be stored several months in a cool place prior to serving. Store non-liquor soaked cakes in a cool place or refrigerator for short term storage or a freezer for long term storage. Let the cakes ripen a few weeks before freezing.
So, this week, add fruitcake ingredients to your shopping list. Happy baking!
About the author: Yvonne, a graduate in Home Economics, has been baking fruitcakes for nearly 20 years. From this family tradition, Yvonne started a baking company specializing in gourmet, brandy-soaked fruitcakes. Using her family’s 100-year old recipe with quality ingredients and time-honored techniques, Yvonne is on a mission to convert modern day fruitcake naysayers to lovers…one bite at a time. Yvonne, who is also a marketing consultant for a Fortune 100 company, has lived in Europe, India and the Philippines, and currently has a home in Door County, WI.