One of my favorite foods to make is the traditional fruitcake – both dark and light versions. And, I adore the scent in my home as the cakes bake. I don’t make both dark and light every year. Rather, I make a dark cake one year then, the following year, make a light cake.
My Christmas season begins in early November when the first thing done to prepare for the holidays is to make the fruitcake. Fruitcakes do well with some “ageing” before they are cut – about 3 weeks is the absolute bare minimum a light fruitcake should age and, preferably longer. Dark fruitcakes take several weeks (and some will argue, months) to age and mellow before being cut into and served. This period allows the flavors to blend well and the cake to moisten which, of course, is always aided by a brushing of a weekly “nightcap” of whatever liquor is used in the cake. I tend to put rum in my dark cakes and brandy in the light fruitcakes. This libation not only helps to keep the cake moist but it also infuses flavor into the cake as it ages.
Apart from their lighter color, light fruitcakes tend to be less rich and not quite as sweet as their dark counterparts. The wonderful thing about light fruitcakes is that the light-colored batter allows the jewel-toned glazed fruit to show well. Light fruitcake is both a flavorful and colorful addition to any holiday sweet tray.
When I posted my recipe awhile back for my dark fruit cake, I offered several tips and hints on how to make fruitcakes. You can access that information by clicking here. The same tips and hints apply to light fruitcakes.
My version of a light fruitcake is nut-free. I find nuts can sometimes go rancid and can interfere with the nice soft texture of the fruitcake so I have long since dispensed with them in my cakes. As well, for any one with an allergy to nuts, a fruitcake with nuts would be off limits.
[Printable version of recipe follows at end of posting]
Light Fruit Cake
1 lb golden sultana raisins
6 oz green glazed cherries
6 oz red glazed cherries
4 oz glazed pineapple rings, chopped
¾ lb mixed glazed fruit
¼ lb citron
½ cup brandy
¾ cup flaked coconut
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
2 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1½ cup white sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 tsp almond flavoring
1 tsp lemon flavoring
½ cup crushed pineapple, drained very well (reserve ¼ cup of the juice)
3¾ cups all-purpose flour (set aside 1 cup of the flour to flour the fruit mixture)
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup pineapple juice (from the drained crushed pineapple)
Extra brandy for brushing on cake as it ages and for soaking cheesecloth in which to wrap the cake
In large bowl, combine the raisins, cherries, glazed pineapple, mixed glazed fruit, and citron. Mix well. Stir in the brandy to coat the fruit. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand for about 24 hours to macerate the fruit, stirring occasionally. When ready to mix up the cake, add the coconut and lemon and orange rind. Stir well.
Prepare 8-inch square fruitcake pan that is 3 inches deep and has a removable bottom: Lightly spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Line the pan (bottom and sides), with brown paper or double thickness of parchment paper. Lightly spray the paper.
Preheat oven to 275°F.
In large bowl of stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until mixture is light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure ingredients are all incorporated. Beat 1 additional minute. Beat in the vanilla, almond, and lemon flavorings. Stir in the drained crushed pineapple.
Sift together 2¾ cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In measuring cup or small bowl, combine the orange and lemon juices along with the reserved ¼ cup of pineapple juice.
Add the dry and wet ingredients to the beaten butter and sugar mixture in three additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Transfer batter to a very large bowl.
Sprinkle reserved cup of flour over the macerated fruit and toss ingredients lightly and quickly. Gently fold the fruit mixture into the batter.
In clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.
Transfer batter by large spoonfuls into the prepared baking pan. Use a knife to evenly spread the batter in the pan, smoothing the top. Add a few cherries as decorations to the top of the cake, if desired.
Place small pan of hot water on the lower rack in the oven. Place fruitcake in center of middle rack and bake for approximately 5 – 5¼ hours or until cake is firm to the touch and cake tester inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. After about an hour or so of baking, loosely tent cake with tin foil to prevent it from browning too much. Remove cake from oven and place on rack. Let cake cool in pan for about 40 minutes before carefully removing from pan by inverting it on a tea towel and removing the paper. Carefully turn the cake top side up on to a wire cooling rack.
Let cake cool completely before brushing well with brandy and wrapping in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, followed by plastic wrap and tin foil. Store in a sealed plastic bag in a cool, dry area. Remove wrapping and brush cake top and sides with brandy once a week for 3-4 weeks as the cake “ages” before cutting and serving.
Yield: 1 – 6 lb, 6½ oz cake
For other Fruitcake, or fruitcake style, recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:
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