Fruitcake is not a Christmas tradition in our family since we don't celebrate Christmas per say. Instead, fruitcake is something I would make once in a while because making one fruitcake a year is such an unbearable thought that I want to curl up in fetal position. This is not the kind of fruitcake that you think of, the ones that are being passed down from one generation to another because it's just too horrid to eat. No, this is not the "American" fruit. This is the "European" fruitcake, the ones studded with fruits and enveloped in moist cake with hints of brandy. My family claims that they can't eat anything with alcohol in it so we usually make fruitcakes with no alcohol added or just a small splash after the cake is done. Orange juice can be used to spritz on the cake instead of alcohol. This is mostly done because fruitcakes need to mature for a few weeks and might dried up in the process. Spritzing alcohol or orange juice keeps it moist.
Putting together ingredients for a fruitcake is not an easy task because some of these ingredients might seem foreign to you. Candied peels and candied cherries are a must in our family's fruitcake recipe. If you can't find them in your grocery store, don't fret. Substitute them with existing ingredients, eg. another cup of raisins or another cup of dried apricots. Also, if you can't find candied orange peels and/or candied citron, just add more fruits. I prefer brandy than rum but if you like rum, you can use that instead.
Unfortunately, my family recipe are all in grams (as opposed to cups) and you know how lazy I am. Here's a good recipe I found online from Joe Pastry. I tweaked it a bit and tried to match it like the ones my family made. Just a quick note, candied cherries (glazed cherries) are not maraschino cherries. There are two steps to this recipe, requiring two days of work. Trust me, it's well worth it! This recipe makes 2 fruit cakes.
Step 1 (Day 1):
1 cup sultanas
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped candied cherries (red and green)
1 cup chopped pitted dates
1 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped pecans (or almonds)
1 cup chopped candied orange peels
1 cup chopped candied citron
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange juice
Combine fruits and nuts in a large bowl and mix. Make sure you use a large bowl because you'll need to mix these ingredients around. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover and let it macerate overnight at room temperature. I've seen people macerating the fruits for a week so, you can do that and leave them inside the fridge.
Step 2 (Day 2):
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
Some brandy (for spritzing)
Cream butter and dark brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy. Add in eggs, one by one, until well mixed. Add in vanilla extract. Beat until light and fluffy about 3 minutes.
In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add into the creamed mixture. Beat until well mixed.
Pour macerated fruits and nuts into the batter. Mix until it forms a thick batter.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Spray baking spray on 2 loaf pans. Line them with parchment paper and spray more baking spray on the loaf pans. Pour batter into the loaf pans. Bake in the oven for 2 hours or until cooked.
After cakes are cooled, spritz some brandy over the cake and wrap with parchment paper and aluminum foil.
Check the cake every other day and spritz more brandy if it's dry. You can serve the cake the next day or let it develop it's flavor in two weeks before serving. Store fruitcake in the fridge or somewhere cool.