Old Fashioned Fruitcake. See Recipe Below.
Based on the cover photo for this post you might be a bit confused. Not only does it not look like an old fashioned fruitcake it in no way resembles a fruitcake at all. Why is that? Well I have been trying to create this post for about a year. In that time I had created a folder with all the lovely photos I had take of various old fashioned fruitcakes I have made over the past five years.
When I went to look for that folder sadly I could not find it or the copies of the pictures that should be in that folder. I did find one sad blurry photo from the very first year I made the cake. It is not the prettiest of photos so while it is included below in this post it is not cover photo worthy. Once I get another photo taken this season I will change the cover photo and update the post. Until then you are stuck with something a bit odd but I think in the holiday spirit.
As a kid I was subjected to two kinds of fruitcake: store bought fruitcake and homemade loaf pan fruitcake. The first was very sugary and a little gross because of the candied fruit. The second was made by my grandparents who always made fruit and nut breads around the holiday. This fruitcake was made in a loaf pan with a combination of real and candied fruit but because it was a lot of batter shoved into a tight space the cake always came out slightly burnt. Most children don’t like burnt cakes and I was no different. One would think this put me off to fruitcake forever but not so. Several years back I got it in my head that I wanted to make old fashioned fruitcake.
At the time I had been watching a lot of British TV shows set in the Victorian era. In the shows there was a lot of mention to various foods eaten and drinks imbibed. Most of the time I just let it all wash over me and enjoy the shows but not that holiday season. That year I wanted to know why everyone found these foods and drinks so tasty. The fruitcake seemed to haunt me the most because of my experiences as a child.
I set aside some time to research old fashioned fruitcakes. Some of the internet finds had me a bit confused by the language used. The cookbooks my mom had only had recipes for fruitcakes with candied fruit. After looking at some recipes for cookies in a cookbook Rent-a-Dad had bought as a gift for me one year prior, I happened to find an old fashioned fruitcake recipe that made some sense.
The recipe used real dried fruit, marzipan, and fondant. It sounded the closest to all the research I had done on good old fashioned fruitcake. I didn’t particularly agree with all of the fruit being used such as prunes or the fruit being left out like cranberries or cherries. So I made some adaptations to the recipe.
When I set out to make the recipe I realized I made one strategic mistake. I was making the fruitcake one week before Christmas and the recipe said to make it three weeks out so it can be properly soaked in rum. Well as I had been talking about this recipe for weeks my family certainly expected that I would deliver. So I made the fruitcake and instead of brushing rum on the fruitcake once every week, I brushed the same amount on the fruitcake over the course of three nights rotating the cake every night so the rum wouldn’t sink to the bottom and be more likely to really soak in.
Another change that I made was using my dad’s recipe for white frosting instead of store bought fondant. When the cake had soaked long enough I brushed it down with marmalade (instead of apricot preserves) before spreading white frosting on the cake. I then rolled out the soft marzipan I had purchased and layered it on top. The crowning touch was dusting the marzipan with powdered sugar to give the cake a snowy appearance.
A day later came the moment I had been dreading: cutting and serving the cake. The cake, weighing between 10 and 20 pounds, cut beautifully and looked like something straight out of a Dickens’s novel. It was enough cake to serve a small army. When I cut the cake several slices adorned each of my aunt’s cookie platters that I gave as gifts that year.
The tasting of the cake at our home was so enjoyable that even my husband who hates fruitcake loved it! Then came the phone calls from my three aunts. The fruitcake slices were a hit at each of their homes. Their children who all hate fruitcake had even stolen bites and asked for more. All of my uncles were furious because they wanted the rum soaked fruitcake with my dad’s frosting! Thankfully I had enough fruitcake that I could smuggle them each down a slice all of their own.
The following year I received so many questions as to when I would make my old fashioned fruitcake that I knew this was now a family favorite! In subsequent years making the old fashioned fruitcake has also been bitter sweet as all three of my uncles have since passed away and I remember how each of them had looked forward to the second year I made this cake. I still make this old fashioned fruitcake even though it now has a gluten free twist and it is still as good as the first year I made it!
Old Fashioned Fruitcake
Before starting this recipe a 10” or larger spring form pan is needed. If not available use a 10” or larger round cake pan that is at least 3” deep. Cut out a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan. Also cut three 4 inch tall pieces of parchment paper and set to the side. Grease the sides of the pan and line the sides with the previously cut parchment paper. Make sure the pieces overlap (may need to use a little more grease to get the parchment paper to stick). Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
2 cups of flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour)
½ cup of finely ground almond flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp ground clove
3 cups dark raisins
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup lightly packed dried pitted apricots, chopped
1 cup lightly packed dried pitted dates, chopped
½ cup lightly packed dried cherries
¼ to ½ cup marmalade
½ cup of rum
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
* a good substitute for fresh zest is dried or even trying a ½ teaspoon of lemon flavoring. If making a substitute I prefer to use 2 packets of true lemon or an extra tablespoon of lemon juice.
1 cup (2 sticks) of room temperature butter (I use salted)
1 ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar (a mix of light and dark works well also)
1 teaspoon Vanilla
¼ cup marmalade
2 pounds of Wilton White Frosting (similar enough to my dad’s recipe) or butter cream frosting bought from a local bakery
10 to 12 ounces of soft marzipan
Confectioners sugar for rolling and dusting
Whisk together the flours, salt, and spices. Set to the side.
Chop the apricots and dates. Add in a separate bowl with the remaining fruit. Add the rum, lemon juice, zest, and marmalade. Let soak for 30 minutes.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth on a medium high speed. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Once thoroughly mixed add the eggs one at a time and beat for an additional two minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl at least once during the process to ensure that all of the butter and sugar are mixed with the eggs.
Gradually add the flour and spice mixture at a reduced speed. Once the flour is fully incorporated beat for a minute. Then slowly begin to fold in all of the fruit mixture. Continue to stir in the fruit until it is completely distributed throughout the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared spring form pan being careful not to knock down the parchment side liners. I tend to scoop the batter one spoonful at a time into the pan until a good layer of the batter is holding up the parchment side liners. Make sure the parchment paper continues to stay about 3” above the top of the pan. The parchment side liners ensure that the fruitcake will not bake over top the pan and burn in the oven.
Set the filled pan on a baking sheet and place on a rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 2 hours or until cake is firm to the touch and golden brown in color*. The top may be slightly cracked. When a toothpick is inserted in the center it should come out clean.
Once the cake is done, pull from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for a minimum of 30 minutes. After the cake is room temperature or cool to the touch release from the pan and let the cake completely cool. Once cooled completely place the cake in a container (I use a deep drying pan) and brush with rum. Wrap the cake in plastic wrap or store in an air tight tin.
Once a week, for three weeks, brush the top of the cake with ¼ of rum. I never have enough time for this step so once a day for three days I flip my cake and brush with rum so the rum has a chance to fully distribute through the cake. Remember to re-cover the cake so it does not dry out.
Once the cake has soaked for a suitable amount of time, transfer the cake to a plate. Brush the cake with ¼ cup (or more) of marmalade. Evenly spread the white butter-cream frosting over the cake. Let sit while you roll out the marzipan.
Lightly dust a pastry cutting board with powdered sugar before rolling the marzipan out to a ¼ inch. Make sure that as you are rolling out the marzipan that you are doing so in a circle pattern of at least 15” in diameter. When the marzipan is the desired thickness carefully roll the marzipan over the rolling pin to move to the cake. Gently lay on the cake. Smooth the marzipan out to remove any air-bubbles. Trim excess marzipan from the bottom of the cake and dust the entire surface with sifted powdered sugar for a “snowy white” look.
White fondant can also be used to create snowflake cutouts to decorate the cake with.
* If the fruitcake is browning up quicker than expected then between the 1.5 and 2 hour marker I have turned the oven off and let the fruitcake sit in the oven for a full hour. This is not a step I recommend to a new baker. This is a gutsy move and may end up with an under-baked cake.